Missouri River Cultural Conservancy continues to document mid-Missouri's musical legends

Friday, September 14, 2012 | 8:35 p.m. CDT; updated 7:26 p.m. CDT, Saturday, September 15, 2012

COLUMBIA — The Missouri River Cultural Conservancy has expanded its archive to at least 300 recordings by local musicians and is trying to collect more during the annual EcoArtFest this weekend.

The volunteer-based organization is dedicated to preserving the culture of Columbia’s musical community by documenting Missouri’s musical legends.

“We believe singer/songwriters in our area are really important,” said Mike Cooper, the group's vice president.

“The music local people write is unique to our area. These people are extremely talented.”

Members of the conservancy will be recording musicians at the annual EcoArtFest this weekend, a festival at Cooper's Landing that gives artists in Columbia a chance to feature their work.

The annual event brings painters, dancers, musicians and other artists together at the Missouri River site. Food will be available at Chim's Thai Kitchen and Boone County BarBQ.

The variety of artists is important to the conservancy, which is trying to expand its archives beyond musicians to painters, sculptors and woodcarvers, Cooper said.

Founded in 2005, the conservancy is now working on a database for its archive, said John Clark, treasurer of the organization.

"We focus on gathering material that's homegrown," Clark said.

Cooper said mid-Missouri's musical style is mostly folk, but some artists are primarily blues and there is a little bluegrass, too. 

He said the conservancy always wants to involve new musicians and musicians who are older.

Following this philosophy, the organization was able to document local musician Bob Dyer before he died in 2007, Cooper said.

At the beginning of their recordings, musicians are encouraged to introduce their songs with a personal theme or a story that inspired that piece.

Before recording one of his songs, singer Jesse James mentioned in his introduction how much his friends, family and life meant to him. 

Since then, James has died, and Cooper said the video is “very touching” to watch.

To share more of its recordings with the public, the conservancy airs content on public access TV and posts on YouTube. Cooper said it is also attempting to produce more DVD collections.

“We’re trying to document what’s unique about our area,” he said. “The things that make it special and the people who make it special.” 

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