The musical group, Common Folk, will perform free concerts at McGehee, Crossett, Warren and Monticello beginning Tuesday, Feb. 18.


The performances are part of the Seark Concert Association’s SMARTS (Schools Majoring in the Arts) program, according to a news release.


Common Folk is made up of Judd Steinbeck, who lives in La Crosse, Wis., Duane Porterfield and Grace Stormont, both of Mountain View.


Asked to describe the band’s style, Steinbeck called it “old time, back before bluegrass and country,” which he said split off to form their own genres in the 1920s and 30s.


Common Folk will present free community concerts at the following locations:


• McGehee Boys & Girls Club at McGehee from 4-5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18;


• Crossett Public Library at Crossett at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19;


• Rob Reep Art Studio at Warren from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20;


• Monticello Coffee Company at Monticello from 5-6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21.


COMMON FOLK BACKGROUND


Steinbeck’s grandparents live in Arkansas. He, Porterfield and Stormont met during a festival at the Ozark Folk Center and were “just goofing around” playing music together prior to his solo set, Steinbeck explained.


He thought they sounded good, so he invited Porterfield and Stormont to join him on stage. Since then, they have performed together every chance they get.


What keeps them going is their love of folk music and desire to preserve and share it, particularly the music of Arkansas and the Ozarks.


To do this, they utilize a wide variety of instruments — mountain dulcimer, clawhammer banjo, guitar, fiddle, Irish whistle and various folk percussion instruments.


Common Folk shows include the occasional gospel song or maybe a “folkified” version of a contemporary song, Steinbeck said.


And in observance of February as Black History Month, they will also be performing songs with African influences. “That’s really easy to do because there are so many of those profound influences on the music we play,” he said, adding that the banjo originated in Africa.


One aspect of Common Folk that Steinbeck loves is that it is multi-generational, with Porterfield being in his 60s, Steinbeck himself nearly 40, and Stormont only 20. Discovering a shared appreciation for the music among people of different ages and backgrounds is an experience that repeats itself often at the band’s shows, Steinbeck said, and one that is gratifying to him.


“When you’re listening to this music, your religious, political or ideological beliefs - none of that stuff matters,” he said. “We get to come together as people, and to be free from all of the baggage. It’s an incredible experience, free of television or screens.”


SEARK SMARTS PROGRAM


The goal of the SMARTS program is to ensure that every student in grades K-12 in the seven counties served by the Seark Concert Association is exposed to professional, high-quality fine arts experiences.


Seark brings a variety of performances to the 17 school districts in the area at no cost to the schools, but this is an expensive undertaking. The vision of the SMARTS program is to enrich each child’s academic experience and growth by providing exposure to and experience of the arts.


More than 20,000 students were served during the 2018-2019 school year. Donations may be made at any of the free community concerts or on their website.


Details: searkconcert.org.