Backyard analogy: Prum celebrates 250... live and out loud

The author Deborah Prum has won awards– like the Hook's 2003 fiction contest. The musician Debby Prum is ready to have a hoedown.

But Prum will bring other talents to bear on how Charlottesville celebrates its semiquincentennial.

On the Celebrate 250 steering committee, she noticed that many of the events planned were historical reenactments– or looks to the future.

"What I really wanted to do was focus on Charlottesville today," she says.

She noticed one other thing: "There weren't a lot of plans that involved teens and children."

Bringing different types of people together is one of Prum's fundamental beliefs– and talents, it turns out. "Our society is more and more polarized," she says. "Voices are more strident. People rarely sit down with the things they agree about.

"People come to my house and jam," she continues. "It's improvisational, and they have to listen to each other to play." The bumper stickers on the cars parked outside may reflect wildly disagreeing views. Yet over music, she says, "They come together to make something beautiful."

Prum and her committee plan to make something beautiful October 7 with Live and Out Loud: A music, dance, and literary art event, by showcasing people in the community who don't often get showcased.

For example, 16-year-old photographer Evelyn Tewksbury. "She has an amazing eye," raves Prum.

Or Lovell Coleman. "He might be one of the oldest musicians in the community," she notes. He'll be playing old-time music with Pete and Ellen Vigour.

Or Kuchipudi dancer Arghya Shetty. "I saw her at the International Festival this summer," says Prum. "It's a very stylized Indian dance. She's amazing."

Essentially, Prum envisions a variety show hosted by Paramount Idol finalist Sam Voelkel and a whirl of local musicians like Darrell Rose on African drums, Brazilian guitarist Umberto Sales accompanied by violinist Chloe Sackler, the Albemarle High Jazz Band, Charlottesville High's Nightengales, and Nettles indie band.

"It should be painless," says Prum of the free event. "People are only on the stage nine minutes." And in between, local writers like Jenny Gardiner, Hook essayist Janis Jaquith, and Prum herself will fill the set changes with short readings.

Prum reminds several times not to forget the three others on the committee who helped put Live and Out Loud together.

"It was completely her idea," says Kristin Baltes, who had worked with Prum before. "We'd planned concerts in her backyard."

Music is obviously one of Prum's loves. "I have a really good ear and mediocre musical ability," she admits.

She shows a visitor the mandolin she saved five years to buy. "It's a Gibson from the '20s," she says. And instead of an engagement ring, she got a banjo from her then-fiance, Dr. Bruce Prum, now her husband of 30 years.

It's clear Prum has a strong sense of how music can bring people together, and how it will help celebrate Charlottesville's 250th birthday. Says Prum, "Let's get together and enjoy each other."

Live and Out Loud is Sunday, October 7, 6 to 7:30pm, Martin Luther King Performing Arts Center, free.

Correction 10/1/12 on the genre Nettles play.