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Riverside man to receive folk music award

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 3:09 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:55 p.m. CDT
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(Photo provided)
Riverside resident Mark Dvorak is well known in the Chicago folk scene, as a performer and teacher, and now, as the 2013 Lantern Bearer Award recipient.

It’s been a long stretch of dusty roads and hard rains for folk singer Mark Dvorak. Next month, the 57-year-old Riverside resident will get his just desserts.

The Folk Alliance Region Midwest (FARM) has named Dvorak as the 2013 Lantern Bearer Award recipient and will bestow the honor to him at its annual conference at the Sheraton Westport Plaza Hotel in St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 24 to 27.

The award is given to those who have contributed locally and regionally to folk performing arts, and the folk and dance community for 25 years or more.

Dvorak certainly has done that.

Dvorak has helped launch several grassroots arts organizations, including The Plank Road Folk Music Society in 1985. Not only a musician, Dvorak is also a teacher at the Old Town School of Folk Music. He has released 16 albums of traditional and original music, but he insists he is more of a performing artist than a recording artist.

“It’s a fuzzy line sometimes,” he said. “But everything I do is on the grassroots level. Some of the recordings I’ve made, I’ve only pressed 300 of them, others, 3,000.”

He said his style has been described as “aggressive folk.”

“My playing style is pretty traditional,” he sad. “I really love the voice of the guitar and banjo and I try to bring that out. Some people listen to it and say, ‘That’s bluegrass.’ I try to make everything relaxed and sing very clearly so people can hear the words.”

Dvorak said he began seriously playing in 1980.

“I got my first playing job in a health food cafe in Oak Park,” he said. “I played there for about 12 weeks, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The next year, the Fox Valley Folk Festival invited me to join them. It was very small, but very rewarding.”

Music has been Dvorak’s bread and butter since 1987.

“When the Folk Alliance sent me the notice and said I needed to write a bio, I went pouring through all these chapters,” he said. “I never realzed how hard it was until I looked back, but that’s the thing with music. It’s really a way of life. It has its rewards.”

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