Twenty-eight different bands and performers performed during the festival.
Though the performances were not explicitly Christian, the event still helps to build something one performer, Ben-David Warner, called “Catholic culture.”
A North Virginia-based musician, Warner is the director of sacred liturgy and music at St. Charles Borromeo parish in Arlington, Virginia. He also leads the folk-acoustic group the Ben-David Warner Band.
Warner said that in America “we don’t have a Catholic culture” but instead “we have a very secular culture.”
For many Catholics, Warner pointed out, the only time they spend with other Catholics is once a week during Mass.
“It’s good to have events like this because it’s an opportunity for a lot of Catholics to come together and have something outside the liturgy,” Warner said.
Maura Butler, a Catholic mother who was attending her fifth Appaloosa Festival, told CNA that she loves taking her family to the festival because it allows her and her husband to explore their passion for music in a safe and family-friendly environment.
“When we were dating, and even when we didn’t know each other, we loved music,” Butler, who is from Virginia, said. “Our kids love it, and we love to bring them up loving music.”
“Our children can see and admire and think musicians are cool and then see them at Mass, and that makes a good impact,” Butler said, adding that “you can’t really do that with kids very easily anywhere else.”
Shaping the future through music
According to Fedoryka, music is crucial to culture, and it can be used for good or for evil.
“You just read Karl Marx — communists knew how to control the masses,” he said. “Music is the No. 1 way to get ideologies in there because it bypasses your intellect.”
This is further evidenced by today’s mainstream music industry, which Fedoryka believes is dominated by a culture of use and disregard for human dignity.
“You can really see how people are affected,” Fedoryka said, pointing to how many artists feel disillusioned and empty from their careers in mainstream music.
Through Appaloosa and his band, Scythian, Fedoryka is working to build something different.
Fedoryka and Appaloosa’s other organizers place a significant emphasis on developing the musical skills of children and young artists.
One of the festival’s staple acts is a band called Pickin’ Thistles that is made up of three Catholic siblings: Hayden, 17, Josephine, 15, and Rosemary, 13.
Though still very young, the siblings have been performing at Appaloosa for years. It’s something they said motivates them and that they look forward to every year.
Fedoryka said he has a special connection to the young Catholic artists. He believes Pickin’ Thistles and many of the other young musicians performing and attending Appaloosa will go on to make a “big impact.”
But he doesn’t want them to seek success the way that the mainstream music industry defines it. He wants them to be artists that create music for others.
“My mom always said that music is for others, it’s a gift,” he said. “Just focus on the people and that you’re bringing them joy, then you start to forget about yourself. And I think that is the antidote for depression.”
“Depression and suicide are at an all-time high. But my mom had the secret,” Fedoryka said. “If you’re depressed or you’re suicidal, start giving yourself to other people and, after a while, you start to forget about yourself because you start encountering other souls.”