Eileen Carson, co-founder of the Fiddle Puppet Cloggers and founder and director of Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, died on July 10 following a lengthy struggle with pancreatic cancer. She was 66 years of age.
Not only did Eileen get to know and work with most of the top performers in bluegrass and old time music over the years, she was married to Mark Schatz, among the music’s top bassists. Together they were a legitimate bluegrass power couple, widely known and loved throughout the community of string musicians in the US.
Knowing that the end was near, Eileen kept working right up to her last day. She taught a scheduled class on Monday at Common Ground On The Hill’s music and arts camp near her home in Maryland, and was able to attend a star-studded benefit concert for her on Tuesday night at The Birchmere in Alexandria, VA. It was hosted by friends Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, with guests on stage including Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Sierra Hull, Danny Paisley, and of course, husband Mark Schatz.
Undoubtedly, it was an emotional and fulfilling evening for her, and she passed away at home later that night.
David Morris, who knew Mark and Eileen well, and was on staff with her at the camp this week, is a regular instructor and former board member at Common Ground on the Hill.
“Eileen was the heart and soul of Common Ground. It’s pretty somber around here today. But there are smiles through the tears. This was a happy place for Eileen, and she made it the same way for hundreds of others. Eileen is gone, but anyone who ever crossed paths with her will never forget her.”
The list of friends who will miss Eileen’s passion, creativity, and leadership in acoustic music would run for many pages. Facebook this week is full of tributes from these friends and colleagues in the music and dance worlds. None were more on the mark than one from the Green Grass Cloggers, which ended with this:
Eileen described herself as having a ‘passionate belief in traditional music and dance and the power it has to bring people together and transform lives.’ We are thinking today of Eileen’s family, friends, and the hundreds of artists’ and audience members’ lives she impacted with her formidable spirit and artistic vision.
No information has yet been shared about funeral arrangements.
R.I.P., Eileen Carson Schatz.