For nearly fifty years I've led a public lifetime as an artist: an author, singer, songwriter, teacher producer and performer with the American Appalachian mountain dulcimer. At age nineteen it became my muse-- my Diogenes lamp for what is true. Through my love affair with the dulcimer came an understanding of what it means to master something. That pursuit opened the doors to friendship, to love, to spirit and to an awareness that begins with being able to look at your life and say, “Oh, I see where that comes from, now.”
It also opened the door to education and the sharing of knowledge with others. After twenty “road years” I returned to college and earned a couple of degrees. I have been a certificated teacher, a principal, college professor, placement counselor and a university administrator. In a few instances I taught music but for the most part I taught about learning to learn. I retired in 2010 as the director of a distance learning center of Washington State University where I connected students, families and my community to education and technology.
Following the well-worn adage for musicians-- don't quit your day job-- I've also crafted musical instruments, built wooden boats and practiced general carpentry. I've loaded boxcars, surveyed land, set chokers, punched “cat” and (at twelve!) was a powder monkey dynamiting stumps.
I've spent thousands of hours on farm machinery on our Eastern Washington “homestead act” section of land, sledding bales and watering with siphon tubes. I would dream of other places when I saw the Bureau of Land Reclamation's orange truck come down the ditchpad. At night I would listen to the Silvertone tube radio skip through the atmosphere, fading in and out with exotic far away music and languages.
I've been to a dozen countries, most of the Canadian provinces and to every U.S. state but two. In pursuit of music I've criss-crossed the United States in five schoolbuses and numerous other vehicles. In my “salad years” before being able to afford transportation, I spent five years hitchhiking nearly 300,000 miles throughout North America and Europe. Kind folks took me home, let me into their lives and traded dinners for songs. Only twice did I spend the night by the side of the road.
I am equally proud of my life as an academician as I am for being a musician. Both careers let me touch lives-- sometimes in the immediacy of “now” and sometimes through the profoundness of time. I am equally amazed and moved by being called, “Mr. Force” by a forty-year old former student, his or her kids in tow, as I am by strangers like the lady who recently brought her five-year-old to see me at a music festival saying, “I want you to meet Bob Force; he's on vinyl!”
Both my father and my mother married often. As a result I have nineteen siblings, most living, some have passed. At this writing I have been with my wife, Janette, for forty years. We have three children and 32 grand children, grand nieces and grand nephews. And that is grand.
Mr. Quinn, my 10th grade Latin teacher said he'd give me a passing grade if I transferred out at the semester. Having already had three years of Spanish, I was a barbarian at the gate to his ears. On my second dulcimer, a large, loud, blonde, all-maple behemoth I called, Big Bertha, I used a calligraphy pen to write the words, “Given as Time Allows... A Gratia Dei.” This was to remind myself each moment is a gift. It was still bad Latin but it turned out they were good watchwords for my life.
Like a Flash Gordon serial I plan to be adding to this bio. Stay tuned for Influences, Happenstance, Intentions-- Some Musical, Some Not-- and the Cast of Characters who Collaborated. (Dei Gratia!)