Stories inherited from grandma

Dan Keding will share stories through music and prose at Malibu United Methodist Church on Saturday.

Dan Keding shares 30 years of stories that he inherited from his Croatian grandmother as part of the Tales by the Sea program, which is in its 10th year.

By Rachael Stillman / Special to The Malibu Times

Stories have the power to connect us, unite our thoughts and imaginations; storytellers have the power to create other storytellers and inspire active participation in a story. Dan Keding inherited his Croatian grandmother’s tales and a love for telling them at a young age and this month he shares 30 years of stories, folktales, ballads, personal stories and folk songs with Malibu’s local storytelling group, Tales by the Sea.

“My grandmother was an immigrant from Croatia,” Keding said. “She not only told stories, she taught me stories. I learned to tell stories when I was very young. I remember my grandmother would call me into the room and have me tell her friends a story. She thought stories were important. That taught me to be interested in them.”

In high school, the guitar accompanied Keding. And in college he created his own folk songs. Folk music led to ballads and ballads led him back to the stories he learned as a boy. From there he began to explore and tell other stories.

“The first time I really understood the power of the story was when I realized that my audience was thinking while I was talking,” Keding said. “People would come up to me and say that reminds me of my grandmother or grandfather or when I was a boy I used to do that. When I heard their reactions, I realized that this kind of work is important. These stories prompt people to think about themselves and their past.”

Keding spins his yarns for people of all ages and has worked at schools as both a concert artist and also in residency, doing in-depth classes for children of all ages in storytelling and folk music. Dan was inducted into the National Storytelling Network’s Circle of Excellence in 2000.

“I try to make sure the audience understands that everyone has a story to tell. I tell my stories so people will remember their own stories,” Keding said. “Storytelling is a really unique art form because it is cocreative. I give people a certain amount of information and they create the story inside their imaginations.”

In contrast to the written word or finished film, storytellers are live, spontaneous performers.

“In very few words I can make an audience understand that something is scary or something is funny by using my face, body, eyes, language or vocalization,” Keding said. “You have a face to look at, a voice to listen to or a body to watch. And I can tailor each show to the audience. In my mind, you can’t just go with a set piece, because if you do and the audience isn’t with you, you have to change. When I am performing, sometimes I will sing three or four ballads and sometimes I won’t sing at all. It all depends on the audience.”

Ann Buxie has been organizing Tales by the Sea since it started 10 years ago, and stresses the importance of storytelling and storytellers like Keding.

“Storytellers don’t ever tell the same story the same way,” Buxie said. “There is just some kind of chemistry between the presenters and the audience. Stories knit the community together. They have the power to unite us, to inspire us to listen and understand each other.”

Keding will perform on Saturday at Malibu United Methodist Church, located at 30128 Morning View Driv at 7:30pm. Tickets are $10 and include coffee and dessert at intermission. For more information, call 457.2385.