Dawn Culbertson

Just heard the shocking news, from Artmobile:

Dawn Culbertson collapsed and died at the BFMS [Baltimore Folk MusicSociety] Thanksgiving night dance at St. Mark's-on-the-Hill parish hall Thursday November 25th. She had Thanksgiving diner with several BFMS friends at Diane and Carl Friedman's house, and arrived near the end of the dance. She danced a few contra dances and seemed fine. I danced the last contra and the closing waltz with her. While chatting during the cleanup, she slumped to the floor. Judy (Meyers, an RN) and Eileen Newburn (also an RN) attended to her, and they and Bob Eckhardt immediately began CPR, while Dan Brandt called 911. Emergency assistance arrived within about ten minutes, and worked diligently and intensely before taking her to Northwest Hospital. However, it seems likely that she had died immediately.

I go into these details because I think it's important to know that she had a lovely time the last few hours of her life, she seemed to die suddenly and without pain, and that knowledgeable assistance was immediately offered.

Dawn was one of the highlights of our Annual I Hate the 80s Night for the past 2 years. There's nothing like hearing "Hot for Teacher" sung to a lute.


Amy said…
Fuck! We got to hang out with her at a friend's party this fall and were thinking how much we wanted to bring her out for some of our burner events.
This news depresses me greatly. I'm glad I had a long chat with Dawn as 80s night was shutting down the other night.

I'll never forget the first time I saw Dawn perform; it was about five years ago at the old Creative Alliance space at the Lodge in Highlandtown. She performed a few authentic Renaissance tunes on the lute, and then all of a sudden she broke into the Sex Pistols song "Submission." I was awed.

Skizz and I played with Dawn on at least three occasions. She always seemed mystified that people would want to hear the punk lute stuff. It never seemed like false modesty, either; it was more like insecurity. At the close of 80s night last year, she alluded to the fact that it might be her last gig as Evil Pappy Twin, since she was unsure about the response she'd received.

We played with her a second time as part of the Trixie Little Revue at the Ottobar this spring, and I'm happy to say she received a tremendous response.

Unfortunately, the severe sound issues at 80s night this year interfered greatly with what was probably her last performance.

Dawn was always very encouraging to other performers, whether as an audience member or co-conspirator. Thought she was quick to demean herself, she would leap to praise her fellow artists.

To say that a void has opened in the Baltimore arts community would be putting it quite mildly.
James Beau said…
As one of Dawn's many readers, I shall miss her. She will remain a person I have long admired for living life her own way and for making lovely gifts of her music and critical talents to all of us.
RCR1 said…
This is heartbreaking news. I've known Dawn since we worked together on her Frank Zappa radio documentary (on WVTS -Towson State Carrier Current Radio, 1973). She always made a special effort to keep in touch with old friends. Few people have made me smile and laugh as much as Dawn. We've lost a special, talented person with a warm heart.
Bob R.
nr davis said…
Oh, absolutely. Right now, there is an unfillable void in Baltimore's arts community and a vast hole in my heart. Godspeed, Dawn.
Jen said…
I had the privilege of knowing Dawn for only a short period of time, while we were both writing for the Baltimroe Alternative years ago, but she was always someone who struck me as being around forever and would continue to be. Perhaps it was her childlike gentleness, her sense of humor, her youthful appearace (did she ever sprout a grey hair?), or her enthusiasm for the lute, music history, and the Baltimore arts scene. It's strange that's she's already gone, the same age as my mom. By all accounts, she died peacefully, after a night of English folk dancing, and was among friends. It seems to me she needed to stay here longer, for I don't know whether she, of the self-depreciating humor, neediness, and self-imposed isolation, ever really understood how many people cared for her and enjoyed her company, despite her quirks and her running commentary on her lack of love life. She, in a world full of friends, always seemed alone.

But maybe it was we who needed to know how much we needed her. I know I always assumed she would be around, and maybe that's why I never made much of an effort to keep touch with her after the paper—she was everywhere, posting on the artmobile e-mail list, at area coffeehouses and churches, writing for local publications. She never seemed far away, doing the things she loved passionately. And now she is seemingly far away, but I hope she can hear me when I say she was someone I always admired for being throughly herself and living fully for her passions, no apology. Hopefully we can keep her spirit alive by asking the same of ourselves.

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