Who's Who in the Arts?
James Kimball, Director of the Geneseo String Band
Published: Thursday, November 4, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 00:07
James Kimball wants everyone to boogie. At least, that's what a cartoon likeness of the School of the Arts professor proclaims on the large square dance poster featured on the second floor of the College Union.
It's a sentiment with which the real Kimball wholeheartedly agrees.
Even as an engineering student at Cornell University, Kimball retained a love for music and musical folk traditions. His passion didn't dissipate as he took his science degree and joined the Army, traveling and studying music where he could. After returning stateside, he followed a friend's advice and officially pursued his interests through the world music master's degree program at Wesleyan University.
In 1976, upon another friend's suggestion, Kimball took that musical knowledge and brought it to Geneseo's campus. He soon became well known for both his teaching and his creation of a student folk-music ensemble: the string band. As it turns out, it was the string band's founding that typified the campus's now-trademark square dances.
As Kimball explained, square dances have been a part of the Geneseo community, both on and off campus, for decades. "I'd open a Penny Saver and there'd be an ad for a square dance," Kimball said. What some of these dances lacked - including the ones taught and hosted in our own ballroom - was live music.
Thanks to Kimball and his string band's musical presence, no Geneseo square dance today is without live plucking, strumming and bowing. For little to no cost, participants young and old, students and locals, can swing their partners and do-si-do to Kimball's calls a few times each semester. "It's been really nice to do these dances over the years, to have the string band so readily accepted," Kimball said. "They're fun."
So next time that Union sign advertising a square dance appears, take that cartoon's advice and join Kimball in a great American pastime.