The Things We Make: Kristen Graves

Kristen Graves is a singer/songwriter, activist, and all around kickass human being.  Here, she writes about the teaching adventure she’s combining with her summer tour this year.  I’m so excited about her plans, and really glad that there are people like her in the world!

I’m a singer/songwriter originally from Green Bay, WI, who was lucky enough to spend four years at St. Olaf College, where, during my senior year I lived in a suite with 9 other girls, one of them being, Ms. Laura Holway.  We had a great four years together – tons of laughs and inappropriate amounts of fun, yet, we always knew that we were both going to go out into the world and ‘do something’.  The time has come, we’re all recently turned or soon to turn 30, and we’re living our lives, creating what we think matters, and doing something.

Last summer, during my annual summer tour, I made a quick five-day stop in LaPlant, South Dakota where my partner/husband (I like to use both titles, one for connotation, and one for clarity…I hope you don’t mind) has spent the last few years working with the Lakota people of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.  He does all sorts of great things out there, but to sum it all up quickly, he works with home repair and construction and hosts summer camps and community events for the families living in this remote town.

During the end of the week community cook out, I played a few songs, since the kids for the five days had been asking me about what I did for a job.  After I was done with my mini-concert I was literally swarmed by children.  They asked me all sorts of questions…’How do you hold a guitar pick?  How many chords to you know?  If I strum, will you play?  Do you know Taylor Swift?’…you get the idea.  So, this of course, got me thinking about what a huge role music played in my life as a child, and the huge amounts of joy that it brings into my life each day.  How great would it be, to be able to offer that same joy to a community of people?

I decided that I would host and teach a free guitar camp for any and all who want to come this summer on the Cheyenne River Reservation.  Between weeks of touring, I’ll be spending weeks on the reservation teaching as much music as I can.  In total I’ll be spending five weeks between shows spending time with curious young musicians, and learning fun songs.  (‘Smoke on the Water’ and ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ have already been requested.)  I have to say – this summer’s tour is going to be my best one yet.

And that’s it.  That’s the plan.  This summer I’ll be carting guitars out to South Dakota, picking up tuners and strings along the way, and of course, as I travel from town to town, I’ll be bringing along our ‘camp guitar’, which will be used to bring back messages of encouragement and hope from my friends around the country to my friends on the reservation.  I can’t wait!

This also reminds me, to mark my summer tour departure, I’ll be bringing along a new EP – I’m really thrilled about that as well!  It has five songs, they’re about comfort, love and kindness, and the general idea behind the cd is to slow down.  We could all enjoy life a little bit more if we’d just let ourselves, don’t you think? The above photo is a sneak peak of the album cover.

To follow along with my tour, and the summer guitar camp, please stay in touch through my blog, twitter, or facebook.

[This post is part of a series.  If you want to write about what you make, email me at]


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