The Vermont Cynic

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Interview with the pied piper of church street

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 The local didgeridoo artist is a favorite of Church Street

The local didgeridoo artist is a favorite of Church Street

Tourists and Burlington residents alike stop on Church Street and stare in wonder at the “one-man band with accoutrements.”

There is almost no way to categorize street performer M. “Tree” Sampson.

“I first thought he was very strange and eccentric, and it [the performance] almost made me uneasy,” sophomore Collin Campagne said.

“I don’t normally stop to look at street performers,” sophomore Emma Palluzzi said. “But he was such an intriguing character that I couldn’t resist.”

By day, Sampson is an experienced carpenter, and makes all of his props with the exception of his didgeridoo.

“I do make didges, I just didn’t make that particular didgeridoo,” Sampson said.

Sampson said that he learned to play “the didge” from some people he was living with on a hippie commune in Spain. This is also where he got into street performing.

”The gypsies were super badass, and made me feel really self-conscious, especially when I was playing American music.”

Sampson repeats melodic phrases on the didgeridoo when he performs pubically. Saying “thank you” while playing is essential to a successful performance because it helps the audience to “accept” what they are looking at, Sampson said.

Sampson believes that the “multi-medium” aspects of his performance are what attract his audience.

“The performance is percussion based and the humanity of the performers are hidden from the audience’s view.” Sampson said, comparing himself to The Blue Man Group.

Sampson said that his shows have evolved throughout six years of street performing. He began dressed in a wooden mask that he said made him look like “a rooted nature spirit, like something almost half plant-like.”

Sampson said he also experienced with owl and deer masks. The marionettes and bells that he attaches to his ankles as well as the gold scroll were added separately and later on.

Sampson said his early performances developed almost subconsciously.

Only recently did he begin to really think about how all of the pieces of his performance connect. He reworked the composition of his set, the colors he would use and even how a canine-feline relationship would be overall intriguing to a viewer.

Sampson especially identifies with his current mask, which depicts a coyote.

“It is a little more representative of my energy,” Sampson said. “I’m yappy, I talk a lot, I’m aggressive.”

Sampson also considers himself a trickster. He explained that tricking the audience into following along with his act is very much like his character.

In the future, Sampson hopes to incorporate other masked musical performers and perhaps even concoct a “dark, mystical marionette circus,” he said.

Most importantly, Sampson looks to inspire younger street performers on Church Street to get creative.

“Street performance is this great laboratory,” he said.

According to Sampson, with a little creativity, anyone could do it.

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Interview with the pied piper of church street