Folk duo brings diversity

January 15, 1997

Folk performers Kelly Armor and David Sturtevant bring diverse influences to their concerts. They also bring a lot of equipment.

Armor said she has so many instruments that Sturtevant has placed a moratorium on getting any new ones.

"I have about 11 onstage at any given time," Armor said in a telephone interview from Erie, Pa., where she lives with Sturtevant, her husband of 312 years.

"It never fails," Armor said. "When we arrive at a gig, people say, 'Wow, you have a lot of stuff.'"

They bring the world

A world of diversity travels with the couple, known professionally as Armor & Sturtevant, in their Toyota pickup. Their music shows African, Appalachian, Celtic and traditional influences.

Sturtevant plays guitar, mandolin, fiddle and banjo, while Armor performs on flute, accordion and a variety of African instruments.

One of Armor's favorites is a flute created from a scrap of plastic plumbing pipe, made for her when she was in Kenya.


Another is a kalimba, a wooden box with metal prongs that Armor plucks with her thumbs.

"It has a simple, crude, wonderful sound," she said.

Still another is a shaker made of reeds that have been lashed together, which creates different rhythms.

Studying in Kenya

Armor, who started playing the flute when she was 10, said she was drawn to African music while she was a student at Yale.

She took a class in African drumming and realized she had found what she was looking for. She dropped out of college and spent 212 years studying music in Kenya and Tanzania, living with families there and collecting songs, folklore and instruments.

"I learned about rhythm and how it's the driving force behind music," Armor said.

Sturtevant, a self-taught guitarist who began playing at age 4, grew up listening to the fiddle playing of his father. Traditional roots and a lifetime of living along the Great Lakes are reflected in his songs.

Stories behindevery song

Armor and Sturtevant, both 33, believe there are stories behind every song, and they like to talk about them.

One example is "You Dance Like You Drive," the title track from their latest album, which the couple co-wrote.

The idea for the song came when they were waltzing at a square dance, Armor said.

"It's usually considered a romantic, slow activity, but I had the sense that something was wrong," Armor said. "He was acting like he was driving on the D.C. beltway. He was going too fast, and I was sure he was going to crash into somebody."

She said the experience supports the theory that the dancing chromosome and the driving chromosome are one and the same.

Keeping a senseof humor

Concerts keep them busy three or four days a week, and they often are asked to perform at schools.

They give workshops for adults and children, finding innovative ways to present their music. Students find it more fun to learn the multiplication tables when African rhythms are involved, Armor said.

The two believe that a sense of humor is important.

"If you can't laugh with the audience, it makes for a pretty boring concert," Armor said. "Music is about having fun."

The Herald-Mail Articles