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Kanute describes his early years as “rich with material” for family stories that many of us live.  He was born and raised on a family farm in Ohio. His father served in the Army Air Force in World War II on a little island in the Pacific called Guam. His mother lived back home with her sister and became a new mom with the birth of his brother Fred. He recalls having a safe wonder-filled early childhood playing with cats and dogs on the farm, helping feed the chickens and rolling down hills in the pasture field behind the barn.


As in all our lives over time things change. life changes sometimes in ways that challenge us. Some are unexpected. His life was shaken by the sudden death of his mother when he was six.  Kanute recalls now that it must have been confusing and sad and scary for his dad and his brothers. His whole family, his aunts and uncles and his grandparents pulled together to help his brothers and his dad.  It was his mother’s family, her sister, his Aunt Arline and her brother, his Uncle John and his grandparents, Grandpa and Grandma Switzer, who took all three boys, Kanute and his brother, Fred and Ike to live with them on their farm so that they could all be together.  Many stories have grown from those years growing up in Ohio.


Kanute describes his own journey to storytelling as stepping onto the formal storytelling stage after retiring from a life long career in health care in 2013.  His family and friends would say he has always been a storyteller. He came by it honestly. Kanute says his dad could make life sound like a tall tale just sitting around the dinner. Looking back he is aware now how much “story” was a part of his work as a teacher, health care therapist, manager, executive  and corporate trainer.


From his first week long workshop in 2015 with national storyteller, Elizabeth Ellis at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina, Kanute likes to say, Elizabeth “opened the door to that canary cage and the bird flew out”. He has told stories from Courthouse steps and Swapping Ground at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough to the NPR Moth StorySlams in Asheville and Burlington and places in between. Personal stories, tall tales , legends and ghost stories have “peppered” the country side in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Most of those stories he has written and crafted from his memories of life experiences and from his imagination. He has had other great teachers who have inspired him along the way including Bill Lepp, Healther Forest, Faye Wooten, Ted Cooley, and Minton Sparks.  

His first step in story telling and one that he is most proud of is a program he developed in 2016 for folks at area care centers, senior centers and retirement communities. It is called,  “Reminiscing, Storytelling and Capturing Personal History. It combines discussion and story to reminds us of the present and the past and helps us find joy in the moment.


Beginning in 2015 he helps with the annual Georgia Mountain Storytelling Festival which is a growing festival in north Georgia and the first of its kind in the area. This all thanks to the work of founders, Amanda Lawrence and Ruth Looper and the family, friends and volunteers they inspire.  Since 2017 Kanute has helped with the annual Texas Storytelling Festival in Denton and is now the co-managing director of that festival along with Elizabeth Ellis. He always combines his journey west with visits with his uncle and cousins in Houston. There is nothing quite like a cowboy story.


In 2017 while presenting a storytelling workshop at the regionals Moss Memorial Library in Hayesville, North Carolina he mentioned starting a story telling group. A year later was approached by storyteller and friend, Gayle Cox and reminded about starting a group.  Today with Gayle’s help and the support of great Georgia storytellers just across the state line from his home town the aptly-named Mountain Area Storytellers is in full swing.  He owes much thanks to Melanie Knauff (Dahlonega), Denise DeSoye Mount (Atlanta) and Sharon Stokes (Ellijay) for their assistance. The Mountain Area Storytelling group meets monthly at the regional libraries in Young Harris, Georgia and Hayesville, North Carolina inspiring new tellers, refining stories and providing a place for folks to just listen.


Inspired by the need to provide more opportunity for storytellers and other artists to have a stage to tell their stories and for story lovers to have a place to listen to stories “close to home” Kanute began to look for something more in 2018. What happened next turned from search to surprise. He found a venue at the Corner Coffee and Wine Shop in his hometown in the mountains of western North Carolina. It to life and to success from the first night. People were hungry for a good, old-time variety show and the monthly open mic night began. Kanute produces the monthly Open Mic Night for storytellers, writers, poets and singer-song writers in his hometown in western North Carolina.  The Mountain Area Storytellers provide volunteers and storytellers as the slate fills with poets and writers and singer songwriters looking for their stage as well.

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