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Voices Spring-Summer, 2002:
Click on the cover for the Table of Contents. Read an excerpt of “Camp Woodland: Progressive Education and Folklore in the Catskill Mountains of New York” by Dale Johnson here.
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Volume 28

Camp Woodland: Progressive Education and Folklore in the Catskill Mountains of New York

A summer camp once sought to help children understand the democratic roots of their country by exposing them to the traditions and tradition bearers of the Catskills. The camp grew out of New Deal programs that provided work for artists. Under the direction of Norman Studer, with the help of Herbert Haufrecht and Norman Cazden, youngsters collected folk songs and stories, learned traditional crafts, and documented the disappearing traditions of the region’s people. The camp’s integrated population and celebration of local tradition bearers seemed subversive to some, however, and with its director under pressure, it closed in 1962. But its legacy lives on in the former campers who were inspired to make their life’s work in folklore.

Square dancing at the Catskill Folk Festival

Square dancing at the Catskill Folk Festival, c. 1944. The festival was the highlight of the summer camp session. Photo: Courtesy of the estate of Herbert Haufrecht.

Norman Studer (1902–1978), educator, folk enthusiast, poet, and humanist, was the founder and, for all of its twenty-four years, educational director of Camp Woodland. Inspired by the ideals of progressive education, the camp was unique for introducing young people to local Catskill culture through folklore and for its integration of African-American youngsters. Born on a farm in Ohio, Studer came east as a young man spurred by his desire for knowledge and curiosity about varied cultures. At Columbia University, he studied with educational philosopher John Dewey. In 1933, he became a teacher at the "Little Red Schoolhouse" in Manhattan and went on to become director of the Downtown Community School. Norman Studer’s philosophy of education and humanitarian values made an indelible imprint on countless educators, students, and campers.
Norman Studer
Studer was the author of many articles on the tradition bearers of the Catskills, which he researched with Herbert Haufrecht, Norman Cazden, and scores of counselors and young campers from 1939 to 1962. Some of Studer’s articles appeared in the New York Folklore Quarterly, and some later reappeared in the book I Walk the Road Again: Great Stories from the Catskill Region, edited by Janis Benincasa and published by Purple Mountain Press. He was a coauthor of Folk Songs of the Catskills. He also wrote A Catskill Woodsman: Mike Todd’s Story, and a narrative poem about Mike Todd called All My Homespun Days, which was released by Smithsonian Folkways Records.

...So, besides the usual summer camp activities, such as sports, swimming, hiking, arts and crafts, and singing around the campfire, Norman Studer also instituted a hands-on folklore approach. Field trips to meet tradition bearers throughout the region was an important component of the camp experience, and in later years, after relationships had been formed, local residents would come to the camp and demonstrate traditional skills in logging, bark stripping, blacksmithing, hoop-shaving, shingle splitting, square dance calling, and others. They would recount to Studer and the children the stories of their lives, the tall tales and songs from the region.
Musician and square dance caller George Van Kleeck at the Catskill Folk Festival, c. 1941.
Musician and square dancer caller George Van Kleeck at the Catskill Folk Festival, c. 1941.
... As music director, Herbert Haufrecht helped initiate serious folk song collecting at the camp in 1941, and this work was taken up a few yars later by his successor, Norman Cazden, who maintained a long friendship and collaboration with Haufrecht ... The result was a collection of 178 songs, which later became the monumental two-volume Folk Songs of the Catskills.

...Camp Woodland’s musical traditions included a weekly square dance called by Catskill resident George Van Kleek, who was always accompanied by his wife Clara, and sometimes the youngsters themselves. Singing and performances of plays based on folk themes were regular events. Both Haufrecht and Cazden were known for composing musical works based on folk themes and local history, and these were performed by campers for local audiences.

Festival at Camp Woodlands

... By far the most important event at the camp was the annual Catskill Folk Festival. Held in August, it brought square dance callers, storytellers, dancers, artisans, and musicians from the region together with campers and visitors to celebrate the heritage of the Catskills . . . As the introduction to Folk Songs of the Catskills states: "These annual festivals became very important events to their local participants. Through their contributions, they gained dignity through renewing and reconstructing their own neglected and almost forgotten past. . . . Thus the festivals reaffirmed and reasserted the creative potential of do-it-yourself culture, and they helped re-establish that creativity as a viable mode within young people." (Cazden et al. 1982: 5).
Norman Cazden (left) ad Herbert Haufrecht


Norman Cazden was born September 23, 1914, to Russian immigrants. He went to Julliard and City College in New York City before arriving at Harvard in 1944. During his Julliard years, Cazden was active in the intellectual life of the city—playing for Blitzstein shows, composing for modern dance companies, and writing serious compositions, including a symphony. After studying musicology with Charles Seeger and becoming friends with Herbert Haufrecht and Aaron Copland, he came eventually to the study of folk song. Along with Haufrecht and Copeland, Cazden composed significant works based on folk themes.

He was introduced to Camp Woodland around 1941 by its musical director, Herbert Haufrecht, whom Cazden succeeded in that position in 1945. He remained as musical director until 1960, and with camp director Norman Studer and Herbert Haufrecht collected the material for Folk Songs of the Catskills.

While at Harvard, he studied composition and wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on whether musical preferences are innate and universal or culturally based. He taught at Vassar, Peabody Conservatory, and the University of Michigan before taking a position at the University of Illinois in 1950. In 1953 he was denied a chance at tenure because of FBI investigations for the House Un-American Activities Committee, and he was fired from his job at the university. He testified in Washington, was blacklisted, and was denied academic positions for the next sixteen years.

He taught piano privately during these years and worked on folk song analysis. The Cazden family’s last summer at Camp Woodland was in 1960, and in 1961 they moved to Lexington, Massachusetts, while Norman’s wife Courtney went back to school and subsequently took a teaching position. In 1969, Norman and Courtney parted ways, and he took a position at the University of Maine. Besides Folk Songs of the Catskills, his works include Dances from Woodland, The Abelard Folksong Book, Three Catskill Ballads for Orchestra, A Book of Nonsense Songs, American Folk Songs for Children, and A Catskill Songbook.


Herbert Haufrecht was born in New York City on November 3, 1909. He began his musical studies with his mother Dora in 1916 and continued at the Institute of Music in Cleveland. In 1930 he received a fellowship in composition at the Julliard Graduate School. While working as field representative of the Resettlement Administration for the Department of Agriculture in West Virginia, he was exposed to traditional music and began a lifetime of folk song collecting. He published Folk Songs in Settings by Master Composers and coauthored the two-volume Folk Songs of the Catskills, published in 1982. Through his lifetime, Haufrecht was a staff composer for the Federal Theater Project of the Works Progress Admin-istration and wrote the scores for many musical plays, including We’ve Come from the City, Boney Quillin, and The Story of Ferdinand the Bull. He worked as a musician with Burl Ives, The Weavers, Pete Seeger, and Judy Collins, for whom he wrote the Judy Collins Songbook in 1969. From 1941 to 1945, he was music director at Camp Woodland, where he began his long collaboration with Camp Director Norman Studer and musicologist Norman Cazden.

After World War II, Haufrecht was an editor and arranger for Mills Music, Associated Music Publishers, Ricordi Publishers, and others. He was the National Music Director of Young Audiences, Inc., which brought innovative music programming into the schools of New York City. He also composed many significant pieces of music, including Symphony for Brass and Tympani, Suite for String Orchestra, Blues and Fugue for Viola and Piano, Etudes in Blues for Piano, a one-act opera A Pot of Broth, and numerous songs. His final composition, A War Prayer, was performed in Kingston, New York, in 1995. His wife of fifty-seven years, Betty Haufrecht, described him as "a man of enormous creative gifts, who was loved and respected by all who knew him."

. . . Long before the Foxfire project and other programs that introduced young people to folklore collecting, Norman Studer, Norman Cazden, and Herbert Haufrecht with other New Yorkers helped us as a nation to come to know ourselves, and the legacy of Camp Woodland is reflected in the creative spirit and vibrant personalities of its many former counselors and campers.


I was greatly assisted by the following people who allowed themselves to be interviewed and corresponded at length with me, as well as indebted to the many writings of Norman Studer about Camp Woodland and the Catskill Folk Festival. Joan Studer Levine, Norman Levine, Eric Levine, Betty Haufrecht, Joanna Cazden, Courtney Cazden, Betsy Cazden, Neil Larson, Karl Finger, Joseph Hickerson, Geoff Kaufman, Janis Benincasa, Dr. Harry Stoneback, Pete Seeger, Eric Weissberg, Jim Corsaro, and many other campers, counselors and researchers. At the University at Albany I would like to thank historian Gerald Zahavi and archivist Brian Keough for their continued interest in sharing the Camp Woodland story, and their commitment to preserving Camp Woodland materials for future generations. Special thanks to Dr. Ellen McHale of the New York Folklore Society for her interest and advice.

Camp Woodland was part of the explosion of interest in the 1930s and 1940s in New York State and the country concerning our democratic heritage and ideals and the search for an American identity.

Selected Bibliography

Botkin, Benjamin A. 1954. Upstate, Downstate. New York Folklore Quarterly X(2): 153-55.

_____. 1955. Upstate, Downstate. New York Folklore Quarterly X(1): 73-74.

Bresnan, Debra. Living Legacy. Woodstock Times. Woodstock: April 6, 2000.

Cazden, Norman, Herbert Haufrecht, and Norman Studer. 1982. Folk Songs of the Catskills. Albany: University of Albany Press.

Corsaro, James. 2001. Report on the Norman Studer Collection. Schenectady: New York Folklore Society.

Corsaro, James. 2001. Report on the Herbert Haufrecht Collection. Schenectady: New York Folklore Society.

Hand, Wayland. 1975. Louis C. Jones and the Study of Folk Belief, Witchcraft, and Popular Medicine in America. In New York Folklore, Somewhere West of Albany: A Festschrift in Honor of Louis C. Jones. Schenectady: New York Folklore Society, 7-14.

Jones, Louis C. 1982. Three Eyes on the Past: Exploring New York Folklife. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, xviii.

Haufrecht, Herbert, and Norman Cazden. 1948. Music of the Catskills. New York Folklore Quarterly IV(1): 32-46.

Menand, Louis. 2001. The Metaphysical Club. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Studer, Norman. 1988. A Catskill Woodsman: Mike Todd’s Story. Fleischmanns, New York: Purple Mountain Press.

_____. 1945. Catskill Folk Festival. New York Folklore Quarterly I(3): 161-66.

_____. 1960. Folk Festival of the Catskills. New York Folklore Quarterly. XVI(1): 6-10.

_____. 1940s. The Story of Camp Woodland. Camp promotional materials.

_____. 1962. The Place of Folklore in Education. New York Folklore Quarterly Spring: 3-12.

_____. 1945. Winter Folklore Conference. New York Folklore Quarterly I: 59-60.

_____. 1988. Yarns of a Catskill Woodsman. New York Folklore Quarterly XI(3): 183-92.

Studer, Norman, and Joan Studer Levine. 1987. The Woodland Sampler. Notes to the recording. New York: Self-published.

Camp Woodland Reunion

Reunion July 14, 2012
9:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
University at Albany, SUNY, Campus Center Assembly Hall, 1400 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY 12222
Folk Festival July 15, 2012
1-4:00 p.m.
Parish Hall, Phoenicia, NY

Activities included:
♦The Norman Studer Papers were available for review including Camp Woodland archive, materials such as correspondence, diaries, student writings, audio recordings, 16mm films, and photographs. The papers contain an extraordinary collection of reel-to-reel audiotapes capturing local Catskill informant interviews, a wide array of regional and national folk singers performing at Camp Woodland folk festivals. All of the Camp Woodland audio archive were for listening at the event.

♦Panel Discussion on the Norman Studer Vision of a Living Democracy (Led by Joan Studer, Bill Horne, Sue Rosenberg and others).

♦Panel discussion of historical period that Camp Woodland existed, the oral history/folklore of the Catskill area and the role of the SUNY archive in preserving the Camp Woodland Archive.

♦Oral history interviews of Camp Woodland alumni by Ellen McHale, New York Folklore Society, and Dr. Gerald Zahavi, University at Albany Professor of History, who recorded alumni memories of camp.

♦Sessions for singing the songs collected in the Catskills and other songs sung at Camp Woodland: an informal sing with non-performing campers joining with performers and the singing of the cantatas sung at Catskill Folk Festivals. Lonesome Train, We’ve Come from the City, Boney Quillen, Sojourner Truth. Conducted by former Music Counselors.

This article appeared in Voices Vol. 28, Spring-Summer 2002. Voices is the membership magazine of the New York Folklore Society. To become a subscriber, join the New York Folklore Society today.

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