This is the first in a new series for Greenbelt Online profiling the Musicians of Greenbelt. Know of others you’d like to learn more about? Suggest them in a comment here.
Greenbelters may recognize Diana McFadden from her many cello performances at the New Deal Cafe, with two bands and as a solo performer. First, the bands.
Kiva is a 7-member group that’s been performing progressive acoustic folk/rock music for about 30 years now at a variety of venues that includes indoor spaces and outdoor festivals, a winery and even a camping event. On May 18 of this year they’ll be performing for their 30-year anniversary celebration at Paint Branch Unitarian Church and the week before, at the Greenbelt Green Man Festival. Another Greenbelter, Tim Saurwein, is also member of the group (and he’ll be profiled here soon).
Diana also plays cello and mandolin with The Badger Band, a 20-year-old jam-style folk/rock band. Her life partner and guitarist Brian Voith (another Greenbelter) is also a member of the group.
Both bands perform original music, as well as unique covers.
As a solo cellist, Diana performs classical, Renaissance and Medieval music, as well as blues and rock. (Yes, cellists can cross over, and even improvise! Diana told me that when she hears blues harmonica and saxophone solos, she imagines playing those parts on the cello.) She’s expanding her repertoire to include pieces traditionally played at celebrations and for all seasons of the year (Contact her at email@example.com.)
Diana grew up near Glen Echo, with parents who supported her music with lessons and instruments. Her interest in the cello began when a visiting musician demonstrated a bunch of instruments for her 4th grade class and she was immediately drawn to the tone of the instrument and its sheer aesthetic and tactical beauty.
Lessons ensued and she played in her junior high and Walt Whitman HS orchestras, as well as the Montgomery County Youth Orchestra, which played “the real stuff,” not simplified versions of music.
The highlight of her young musical career was the 3-year stint in Maryland’s competitive All-State Orchestra. When they performed in the Baltimore area, she and the other students stayed with local families – an enriching experience she remembers fondly.
During Diana’s college years at Elmira in Upstate New York, music wasn’t her “main thing” and she didn’t play her cello for several years after that. But during those years she taught herself guitar, including studying with a hot jazz guitarist in Elmira.
Eventually she got inspired to play cello again, though it took a lot of patience to get going again with a “fretless bowed instrument – they’re unforgiving.” As an adult she’s studied with a series of teachers, including a member of the National Symphony. These days she practices daily.
With a degree in political science, Diana has worked in a number of jobs that used her researching and organizing skills – for a surety bond company, 14 years with the National Geographic Society (until a major downsizing) and most recently, 15 years with the National Cooperative Bank as a collateral control specialist in the loan closing department.
Her off-the-job passions include cycling, hiking, kayaking, camping, traveling and reading.
In September of last year Diana took and three Greenbelt friends took a week-long bike camping trip from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD along the beautiful Great Allegheny Passage Trail.
Diana is also a committed activist for, as she wrote to me, “civil rights, healthcare for all, reproductive rights, public and motor-free transportation, and environmental protection.”
Connection with Greenbelt
Diana moved to Old Greenbelt in 2002, where she and her life partner of 15 years Brian Voith now live in the historic housing coop. Together for 15 years now, they met at a jam session on someone’s porch at a local party.)
She and Brian travel to Maine every year to join friends for “two weeks of hiking, cycling, sharing stories, eating lobster and relaxing.”
Diana’s contributions to the Greenbelt community include 12 years on Greenbelt Homes Board and membership on three of its committees. She’s also on the city’s newly created Pedestrian and Bicycle Task Force.