An Interview with R. Daniel Jr. and Lauren Hamrick Long
Mason Music: How did you two meet and end up in Birmingham?
RDL: I am originally from Birmingham. Lauren grew up in North Alabama – in Scottsboro and Gadsden mostly. We met while at school in Auburn (AL). Occasionally I would go and hang out at the shop where she worked, hoping for a reason to talk to her. Let me just tell you; I was real suave… (chuckling to Lauren)
LL: And while I honestly don’t remember him from the shop, I remember seeing Dan perform around town. He definitely caught my eye; but it wasn’t until I came to Birmingham in October of 2005, looking for jobs, that we really connected. That’s when I decided to make the move to the Magic City.
MM: How did music become such a big part of your lives?
LL: We both come from homes where music was a pretty big part of everyday life. My dad was a radio DJ before joining the military. His record collection had a big impact on me. My mom also sang in her father’s church growing up and even played the drums for a while. Growing up, I also sang in church choir.
RDL: Yes, as far back as I can remember, my mom would walk around the house singing whatever she needed us kids to do, or whatever was happening at that particular moment. She also gave me her old guitar and taught me the first three songs I ever learned when I was in about third grade. I believe she was the one who explained tablature to me for the first time as well … but in church was the first place (outside my home) where I really started to develop my skills and talent for music. I played songs on the guitar, sang in choir and started filling in on drums occasionally when I reached middle school.
MM: What were the first songs you learned on the guitar?
RDL: “Michael Row Your Boat Ashore,” “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?,” and “House Of The Rising Sun”- songs of peace and love … and warning. You’d just have to know my mom. (smiling)
MM: You guys are involved with the visual arts as well, correct?
LL: We have both enjoyed visual art since we were young.
RDL: Lauren’s undergrad was in Interior Design.
LL: I love to draw and paint. And I worked for several years in galleries, as a buyer … and for a few different design firms. I love design and working with people. I still enjoy helping to create spaces that inspire.
RDL: I enjoy drawing in black, white and gray- using positive and negative space. I’ve always seen great overlap in the skill sets of different types of artists – musicians, painters, sculptors, writers, engineers, designers … working with Lauren, I have learned a lot about paint, texture and color. Before we were married, we taught group art lessons together full time for a couple of years. Now we have the opportunity to use both music and the visual arts in a number of different settings – for recreational, educational and therapeutic purposes.
MM: You are referring to your work with AIR, right?
MM: Can you tell us briefly what AIR is and how it came about?
RDL: Sure! Interactive Art & Rhythm (AIR for short) is a Birmingham-based organization that helps provide innovative programming in the visual and performing arts and instruction in a variety of media for all ages and abilities.
RDL: Lauren’s background is in Education as well as Design.
LL: And Dan’s is in Mental Health – in addition to the Arts.
RDL: After I finished at the Jefferson County Department of Human Resources a few years ago and Lauren left Birmingham City Schools, we felt a deepening desire to share our time and talents with a larger cross-section of the populus – in this amazing city and beyond. We both felt lead to create an organization that would allow us to collaborate and consult creatively across a broad spectrum of media and clientele. And we thought – as individuals … as humans collectively … what is more elemental to our existing, surviving and thriving than air?(!)
Interactive Art and Rhythm grew out of our fantastic partnerships with other local arts/education organizations such as John Scalici’s Get Rhythm, The Dance Foundation, Boutwell Recording Studios, Create Birmingham, Birmingham City, Birmingham City Schools, Alabaster City Schools, VSA Arts Alabama, Artworks Alabama, The 1920 Club, The South Highland Adult Day Center, Alzheimer’s of Central Alabama, Temple Emanu-el, ARC of Alabama, FrameIt Birmingham … the list continues to grow.
This city is blessed with so many wonderful artists, therapists and educators – people from all backgrounds and walks of life – working in one way or another to tap the resources of this vibrant and creative state and to help spur us all to reach our potential. This is why we are so excited to be part of the Mason Music family! Here, the goal is not only to inspire a growing community of musicians, but also to help teach them the skills needed to perform with excellence. We think that – pretty much – says it all.