Nomination Statements and Letters of Support

    for the FMO Estelle Klein Award:

In 2014, internationally respected conductor and composer David Amram attended a jam in Toronto organized in honour of his visit. To quote Amram that night, “when David Woodhead walks in, he upgrades the situation”. Whether at a gig, folk festival, music camp, in the studio or just at a jam, David Woodhead will give his all, and has been doing so in the music world for nearly 50 years.

David began his music career in 1974 near Stratford, Ontario, joining the ground-breaking Perth County Conspiracy (“does not exist”). The next year, working with Cedric Smith and Terry Jones of PCC, David performed on the CBC radio show “Touch the Earth”, produced by Paul Mills. Paul then recommended David to Stan Rogers, who was just launching his career. Stan subsequently invited David to join him and his brother Garnet on tour, and to play on his records. David's contributions to the legendary album Fogarty's Cove, both on bass and guitar, are still fresh and indeed timeless. After Stan's death in 1983, David lent his support to Garnet for his first solo tour, and would go on to record over nine albums with him. Later in the 80's, David collaborated with Loreena McKennitt, helping her to evolve her live concert sound. The number of artists David has supported is truly remarkable – he has contributed to over 300 Canadian folk records. Valdy, Scott Merritt, Brent Titcomb. Sneezy Waters, Laura Smith, The Sultans of String, David Francey, David Bradstreet, Marie-Lynn Hammond – the list goes on. Currently, David continues to work with Donné Roberts and James Keelaghan.

In 1988 David played a Fast Folk Underground live recording in Toronto with Tim Harrison, Loreena McKennitt and Bob Carpenter. Also playing at this ambitious event were Don Ross and Oliver Schroer. They met, instantly connected, and David became a member of the Eye Music quartet with Don, Oliver and Mark Duggan. Thus began a life long friendship and collaboration with Oliver Schroer, until his tragic death in 2008. Since then David has organized annual tributes to Oliver embracing the younger fiddle community that has blossomed in Toronto. Much more than that, David has continued to help out many of Toronto's younger folk artists, recording demos in his studio, playing on their first records, and generally acting as an experienced ear, nurturing and advising. During the pandemic David hosted numerous outdoor jams that helped keep the acoustic instrumental community playing together.

Since working with Oliver, David has developed his own musical statement as composer and band leader with his own Confabulation and most recently the Oriana Quartet. David has been a familiar face onstage at folk festivals since since the 70's, during which time Estelle Klein created the “workshop” format at folk festivals. David personifies the magic that can happen at a festival when two or more musicians, who have likely never played together before, meet on stage and spontaneously collaborate to create a unique experience for themselves and the audience-members. Indeed, in May of 2004 Estelle herself called David and invited him to come and play at a Tribute Concert to her at Hugh's Room in Toronto.

David's skill as a musician, and his eagerness to jump into challenging musical opportunities has also created many memorable festival “moments”, such as playing with Gil Scott-Heron at the Calgary Folk Festival in 1999. In 2011, at the request of Vancouver Island Musicfest Artistic Director Doug Cox, David substituted for American blues artist Cory Harris' absent bassist for their mainstage concert. And in the 70's, a memorable ad hoc band including David was assembled by David Amram at Summerfolk in Owen Sound. Artistic directors know they can depend on David to help generate energy onstage, support other artists and perform in all kinds of musical roles.

David has also taught at various music camps and programs, and is known as a generous and encouraging teacher, his own curiosity drawing inspiration from his students. Whether it is a beginner Ukulele class as recently as 2022 at Goderich Celtic College, or an advanced session on the fretless bass in 2017 at Folk Alliance in Kansas, he will always try to connect with his students and truly cares that they have a rewarding learning experience. In closing, one could say that David Woodhead is a bit of an unsung hero. He does not seek this nomination himself. I as nominator felt that it was time he received recognition for all that he has given to his musical community. No spectacular awards, no chart-topping records, just five decades of helping musicians follow their dreams, and trying to make music and musicians sound better....as David Amram says, “upgrading the situation”. To end on a lighter note....when David came down from the stage at the Calgary Folk Festival after playing with Gil Scott-Heron, he met Odetta on her way to the stage. She said, “Was that you playing the bass up there? Oh, you're delicious!”
                                   - Nancy Solway, FMO member and volunteer


Liz Scott, AD, Mariposa Folk Festival:

Every stage that David steps onto is elevated by his virtuosic playing, his generous spirit, and his ability to cruise in and out of songs with a humble, intuitive brilliance. He’s welcomed with open arms by every artist, presenter and Artistic Director. The music always seems warmer and more soulful when David is around.

Paul Mills, producer:

It isn't possible to overestimate the contributions David Woodhead has made to the very sound and nature of Canadian folk music. In a career that has spanned more that fifty years, David's wonderful and very unique musicianship has contributed to the excellence of hundreds of albums by iconic Canadian folk artists such as Stan Rogers, Garnett Rogers, Loreena McKennitt, Laura Smith, Oliver Schroer, Don Ross, Valdy, James Keelaghan and many others. I first met David when I was recording some members of the Perth County Conspiracy for my CBC Radio folk music program, Touch the Earth.  David was the bass player on the session, and I was very impressed.  As it turns out, my friend Stan Rogers was looking for a bass player at the time and I recommended David.  He became Stan's regular bass player for many years after that and appeared on Stan's first two albums which I produced. Overall, In my career as a record producer, I used David as a bass player on a huge percentage of the nearly 200 albums I produced over the years. He always brought incredible musicianship to the studio and his unique musical sense always helped push the tracks out of the ordinary and into new and refreshing directions. I really think that David's unmatched musical vision has helped push the boundaries of Canadian folk music and helped to make it better.

Emilyn Stam, musician:

David has been incredibly supportive and encouraging to me since I
moved to Toronto and started my career as a musician. In my early
twenties he gave me opportunities to perform with him, exposing me to new kinds of music and music communities, and connecting me with people in the music industry. On multiple occasions he offered his
skills and expertise as a sound engineer and recorded demos of my
music with no charge to me, providing me with material to submit for
both album funding and festival applications. He is a masterful
musician yet he approaches everything with a graceful and humble
spirit, always supporting others. I'm grateful to know him and I
believe that my music career has gone as smoothly as it has in a large
part thanks to his help and support.

Thom Lambert, Haliburton Folk Society:

"David has taught for us at Winter Folk Camp many times. What I am always struck by is his ability to translate his obvious genius for the complexities of music into experiences that are accessible for musicians of all abilities. He is a warm and generous teacher who delights in musical achievement at any level. As a musician, David can sit in with virtually anyone. As a teacher, he can make virtually any student feel challenged and comfortable at the same time."

Jaron Freeman-Fox, musician:

It is always an immense pleasure and a joy to work with David Woodhead. No matter the situation, whether in his capacity as a hired instrumentalist, composer, bandleader, or producer, David performs at the highest calibre of quality, creativity and professionalism, always managing to cross over into the role of mentor, historian, and dear friend.  I don’t know if I’ve ever known someone who so constantly and consistently demonstrates his care and commitment to Canada’s folk music tapestry.

Front Yard Oli” Video:

During the first summer of the pandemic David organized a jam in his front yard to celebrate the music of Oliver Schroer. Participating in the event are fiddlers Emilyn Stam, Jaron Freeman-Fox, Anne Lindsay, Lea Kirstein, Nathan Smith and more.