Listen to the stories
Tim Duffy and Captain Luke Mayer walked out of the StoryCorps mobile recording booth and performed a brief concert in the American Tobacco
courtyard Thursday. The captain’s fluid bass voice treated the crowd and passers-by to his versions of “I’m a King Bee,” “Polk Salad Annie” and other blues and folk songs while Duffy played guitar.
Just before the concert, they were the first participants to tell their story in the StoryCorps recording booth, which will be at American Tobacco through May 16 to help people document their stories. Duffy is the cofounder of Hillsborough-based Music Maker Relief Foundation, which helps to preserve traditional music by offering financial aid and performance opportunities for musicians. Captain Luke is a Music Maker artist, and Duffy and Mayer told the story of how they met, and discussed their longtime friendship, Duffy said. (Captain Luke also sang.)
StoryCorps wants other local residents to follow in their footsteps. StoryCorps is a nonprofit organization that collects stories from Americans of all walks of life. Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 50,000 interviews from about 90,000 participants, said Robin Sparkman, CEO of the organization. StoryCorps was founded on the idea that people’s stories matter “and there is tremendous power in two people sitting across from each other to have a conversation,” Sparkman said.
“We believe everybody has a story,” said Eliza Bettinger, StoryCorps tour manager. Everyone has a friend or family member who is interesting and whose life or work they want to be remembered, she said. By allowing people to tell their stories themselves, this process also allows more people to become documentarians, Bettinger said.
Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Some StoryCorps recordings may be heard on NPR’s “Morning Edition” and on storycorps.org.
StoryCorps last visited Durham in 2006. WUNC FM also is participating in this year’s monthlong visit, and listeners will be able to hear some of the recordings over the air, said Connie Walker, general manager of WUNC. The station has partnered with many different community organizations to ensure “a diverse range of voices,” she said.
The mobile StoryBooth is housed in an Airstream trailer that sits in the southern part of the American Tobacco courtyard. It has an ante-room and a soundproof room that has a lunch-counter type booth where the participants tell their stories.
All stories are welcome. American Tobacco is encouraging people who worked at the former tobacco factory to share their memories. StoryCorps encourages people who want to tell stories to bring a friend or family member to interview them, but anyone who wants to tell a story will be accommodated, said Callie Thuma.
Thuma and Mayra Sierra are mobile facilitators who will record and, when needed, help to prompt the storytellers. Recording is just the first step. They also will help put the stories into the Library of Congress archive. “Our archival work is also an act of love,” Thuma said, because it ensures the stories will outlive us.
During this visit, the recording booth will operate five days a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays are break days), recording seven interviews each day from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Every story also has something you can internalize and personalize, said Sierra. Touring around the country with StoryCorps has allowed her to “piece together a community’s history” through different people’s stories, she said.
Thuma has conducted about 300 interviews. “I think I take a little piece of every story with me,” she said.
WANT TO TAKE PART?
To set up a time to tell a story with StoryCorps, visit storycorps.org or call 1-800-850-4406.