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June 21, 1997

At the top of Arthur’s Seat.                       Edinburgh, Scotland. (1997)

On this day exactly 20 years ago I did a very scary thing. I embarked on a journey that changed my life, leaving my home in Chico, California to live in Edinburgh, Scotland for six months.

I had reached a crisis of sorts. My personal life was falling apart, my middle-school teaching job was eating me alive and I was saddened to watch my mother’s health decline more and more as time moved on. With all that going on, I made an important discovery about myself: I had to sing.

Earlier in the year, I was given an opportunity to perform in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in a venue called the Spiegeltent and I decided to go for it. I had made some friends in Edinburgh a couple of years previous and enlisted their help in finding me a place to live.

I spent my first three weeks going to music sessions almost every night. I began to meet many of the musicians who play folk music in Edinburgh and actually got my first gig at the Hebrides Bar near Waverly train station. A few days after that, I got a call to sing at a wedding at a pub called the Sheep’s Heid in Duddingston and a few days after that I got a call from the landlord at Sandy Bell’s. He offered me the Monday evening session and I jumped at it.

Every Monday night from July through November, I sat in “The Corner” and ran the session at Sandy Bells. Many evenings I was joined by some of the Scotland’s most talented singers and players and many of them are friends to this very day.

I learned so much from my experience in Scotland. Not only did a I get a fantastic education regarding Scots traditional songs and Scots musical culture, but I also was on the receiving end of many kindnesses and some great and memorable times. I gained confidence in my singing and brought that with me when I moved to New England to pursue a full-time folk music career.

It all started in Edinburgh on June 21, 1997.


On the calendar

  • 18 Oct 2018 Debra Cowan  House concert,  Cleveland Heights, OH
  • 21 Oct 2018 Debra Cowan  House Concert,  Marietta, OH
  • 28 Oct 2018 Debra Cowan  Pioneer Valley Cohousing,  Amherst, MA

See all dates

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