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Voices is the membership magazine of the New York Folklore Society.

Dedicated to publishing the content of folklore in the words and images
of its creators and practitioners!



Voices logo

Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore features articles, stories, interviews, reminiscences, essays, folk poetry and music, photographs and artwork from people in all parts of New York State. Voices is the Society’s membership magazine. The magazine also publishes peer-reviewed, research-based articles, written in an accessible style, on topics related to traditional art and life, including ethnic culture. Join NYFS today to receive this new membership magazine!

Voices features articles, stories, interviews, reminiscences, essays, folk poetry and music, photographs, and artwork drawn from people in all parts of New York State, folklorists and non-folklorists alike. The magazine also publishes peer-reviewed, research-based articles, written in an accessible style, on topics related to traditional art and life, including ethnic culture. Informative columns on subjects such as legal issues, photography, sound and video recording, archiving, ethics, and the nature of traditional art and life appear on a regular basis.
Look inside ⇓
VOICES, Vol. 43, Spring–Summer 2017


What always strikes me about Voices is its clarity and openness, both in design and content. It’s inviting, lively, and readable and has plenty of variety. It presents artists and communities with respect and sensitivity, yet one learns too about what folklorists do and who they are. Voices gives a picture of New York State and its people that cannot be found elsewhere.
Anna Lomax Wood, Director, Association for Cultural Equity

LISTEN to New York Folklore Society’s executive director, Ellen McHale interviewed by Steve Black for his radio show, “Periodical Radio,” about Voices.
Download MP3

⇐LOOK INSIDE back issues of Voices

From the Spring–Summer 2017 issue of Voices:

The Smithsonian’s 1986 Festival of American Folklife launched my career. In my first paid job as a folklorist, I was hired as an Assistant Program Coordinator for the program, “Rice in Japanese Folk Culture,” curated by Alicia Maria Gonzalez of the Office of Folklife Programs.

Now in its 50th year, the Folklife Festival remains a premier international exhibition of living cultural heritage, presented annually for two weeks around the Fourth of July on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Attracting over a million visitors yearly, the celebration is the largest annual cultural event in the nation’s capital.

Some 30 years ago, I was part of the team that created a temporary Japanese village on the National Mall. It ran from the village rice paddy, through a collection of craft workshops and performance stages for music and dance, cooking, and children’s activities, to the Shinto shrine at the end of the lane—all populated by guest artisans and performers from Japan.

We were actually allowed to build a rice paddy on the National Mall (under the watchful eyes of the National Park Service). Here, performances of traditional music and dance with ritual rice planting welcomed visitors, as did a 13-foot tall rice straw effigy, erected to ward off sickness and evil spirits at the village entrance.

In shops along the village lane, visitors met Japanese artisans working on crafts: rice-straw boots, candles, and raincoats; umbrellas of split bamboo and rice paper held together with rice glue; bamboo winnowers and baskets; clay jars for storing rice and wood barrels to hold rice wine; resist-dyeing with rice paste; papier-mâché with rice glue for dolls and masks depicting characters in folk drama. Performers danced, sang, and played traditional instruments. Others cooked and shared children’s games. This was cultural exchange up close and personal.

This life-altering job grew out of an internship while I was a doctoral student at George Washington University. I worked on the photo text panels that complemented the living, performative presentations of the festival. It was a practical application for my studies in folk culture and Japanese literature, and my “seriousness and exactitude” were noticed.

“Tokyo Todd,”
a departing gift from a Japanese friend.

In this first job, I could share my love of Japanese culture acquired in Tokyo (1983–84) while teaching conversational English to corporate management. It was a means to immerse myself in a culture so different from my own. The ever present aroma of a simple dashi broth. Water spilling over the rim of a cedar hot tub, as cherry blossoms petals began to fall.

In Japan, I was introduced to a reverence for age, custom, and tradition. I saw the government actively supporting the nation’s artistic heritage with the honorable title, “Living National Treasure,” the highest award given to Japanese artists, charged with passing on the traditions to future generations.

Over 30 years later, I remain grateful for this early opportunity. A government-supported program set me on a path that continues to help my patrons appreciate the diverse cultural heritage of upstate New York and beyond. Let’s hope government programs like the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, partnered with non-profit organizations and private corporations, continue to support new generations of educators, ever striving to break down the barriers separating people all over the globe.

Todd DeGarmo
Voices Acquisitions Editor
Founding Director of the Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library

The taxpayers are hollering, and the state’s contribution to this wonderful little magazine has been drastically cut. Those of us who read it all the way through have to all chip in.
—Pete Seeger, musician and activist, Beacon, New York

VISIT our online gallery bookstore to purchase back issues.


Meet Todd DeGarmo, Voices Acquisitions Editor
Todd DeGarmo

Todd DeGarmo is the acquisitions editor for Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore, leading an editorial team which includes Ellen McHale as executive editor, Patricia Mason as copy editor, and Laurie Longfield as Voices’ manager. Todd took over this editorship from Dr. Eileen Condon who served as acquisitions editor from 2007–2012.

Todd is the founding director of the Center for Folklife, History and Cultural Programs at the Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls, NY. Todd is a former board member and past president of the New York Folklore Society. He brings a wealth of knowledge and prior experience to the position of acquisitions editor, including a knowledge of Japanese culture, Adirondack studies, tourism, and architectural studies.

Send Your Story to Voices!
Did you know that Voices publishes creative writing, including creative fiction (such as short stories), creative nonfiction (such as memoirs and life/work stories), and poetry? We also publish artistic and ethnographic photography and artwork, in addition to research-based articles on New York State folk arts and artists. If you are one of New York’s traditional artists or working in a traditional occupation—including fishing, boat building, traditional healing, instrument making, firefighting, or nursing, to name a few—please consider sharing with our readers. For more information, see our Submissions Guidelines or contact the Acquisitions Editor at degarmo@crandalllibrary.org.

Check our submission guidelines for authors.

Send your letter to the editor here

Folklorists are writers. We write every day: monographs and scholarly articles, field notes, festival and event brochures, exhibit texts, grant applications, final reports, press releases, proposals. In fact, I would say that time spent writing is more than fifty percent of any folklorist’s annual cycle of work. The essentials of folklore—the ethnographic material—are fundamental to a great story. As any fieldworker can attest, entering into the personal experience of another individual is expansive and illuminating. The everyday becomes novel when viewed from the viewpoint of the uninitiated. The job of the folklorist is to translate that experience to those who may not get the opportunity to go through it themselves and to help the reader to find meaning in the experience.
Ellen McHale, PhD, Executive Director, NYFS

What is Folklife?
The everyday and intimate creativity that all of us share and pass on to the next generation:

The traditional songs we sing, listen and dance to

Fairy tales, stories, ghost tales and personal histories

Riddles, proverbs, figures of speech, jokes and special ways of speaking

Our childhood games and rhymes

The way we celebrate life
  – from birthing our babies to honoring our dead

The entire range of our personal and collective beliefs
  – religious, medical, magical, and social

Our handed-down recipes and everyday mealtime traditions

The way we decorate our world
  – from patchwork patterns on our quilts to plastic flamingoes in our yards, to tattoos on our bodies

The crafts we create by hand
  – crocheted afghans, wooden spoons, cane bottoms on chairs

Patterns and traditions of work
  – from factory to office cubicle

The many creative ways we express ourselves as members of our family, our community, our geographical region, our ethnic group, our religious congregation, or our occupational group

Folklife is part of everyone’s life. It is as constant as a ballad, as changeable as fashion trends. It is as intimate as a lullaby, and as public as a parade.

In the end ... we are all folk.
American Folklife Center
Library of Congress, Washington, DC

NEW YORK FOLKLORE SOCIETY ♦ 129 Jay Street ♦ Schenectady, NY 12305 ♦ 518.346.7008 ♦ Fax 518.346.6617 ♦ nyfs@nyfolklore.org