Asheville area singer-songwriter David Lamotte joins NC Council of Churches as full-time advocate
By Jason Sandford, Asheville Citizen-Times
The title on David Lamotte’s business card sounds a little audacious: “peace associate.”
But that’s Lamotte’s job with the North Carolina Council of Churches, and he’s serious about the work. Lamotte just spent two years living abroad and studying rigorously to earn a master’s degree in international relations and peace and conflict resolution. Now the former singer-songwriter who was once a fixture on the local music scene is ready to apply what he’s learned.
“We have an interesting set of myths in our society around how you change the world. I think we believe that you have to be miserable, that if you’re not miserable you’re not trying hard enough,” Lamotte says.
“I think that’s not true. Small change is good, and all the big changes are made of small ones. It’s a question of what intention you bring to the change you want to make.”
It’s no small job for a man who spent years building a musical career. But it fits, says longtime friend and fellow musician Jimmy Landry.
“To me, peace work and music go hand in hand,” Landry says. “And it pleases me that David’s coming back, because his music is one the best assets he has.”
Pulled toward peace activism
Lamotte made music his life for nearly 20 years.
He started on the stages of the music houses of the late 1980s and early ’90s in Black Mountain and Asheville, venues such as McDibb’s and the Be Here Now. He played alongside fellow local musical trailblazers such as Landry, Chris Rosser and Beth Wood, and built his career on the road. It would take him around the world.
But Lamotte always kept thoughts of building bridges close, and as he toured further afield, he often set up side trips to meet with peacemakers from Bosnia to Belfast. A Quaker, Lamotte had a deep belief in peace.
Lamotte’s other experience working abroad began in 2004, when he and his wife Deanna established a nonprofit in Guatemala. The couple had honeymooned there and decided to raise money for a school. He began asking for donations at his concerts. The organization, PEG Partners, continues to raise money for schools and libraries there.
“My career was at its peak, but I was just called. I just had a gut sense that I was called to it,” he says.
So Lamotte applied to be a Rotary World Peace Fellow through Rotary International, an organization that many are familiar with through its local chapters. Established in 2002, the fellowship program chooses 60 people around the world and offers them a chance to study in universities identified as “peace centers.” The fellowship targets people in mid-career with an established track record of doing peace work.
Lamotte landed the fellowship in 2008. He announced an end to his musical career at a farewell concert at the Grey Eagle in Asheville and set off to work toward his master’s degree in Australia.
Not naive about hope
Lamotte says the intensive study, including field work in an Indian village, has only encouraged his belief that nothing short of world peace is possible.
“We’re killing each other less than we used to” on a global level, Lamotte says.
“I think that we’re getting to know one another better. Modern communication technology can isolate, but can also help us know one another. As a human race, we’re maturing a little bit. Whether our wisdom will grow fast enough to tame our intelligence is the question.”
Broken relationships can mend, says Lamotte, citing just two world events few would have predicted: the fall of the Berlin Wall and the release and peaceful election of Nelson Mandela.
“You can’t tell me things don’t change,” he said. “I don’t think hope is necessarily naïve.”
That’s why Lamotte says he decided to take the part-time job as peace associate with the N.C. Council of Churches. Founded by a group of white church leaders who were opposed to segregation in 1935, the organization fights for racial justice in multiple realms, from immigration to health care to the fair treatment of gays and lesbians.
“Peace is a huge, broad term and has a lot to do with justice,” Lamotte says.
Aside from his work with the council, Lamotte says he’s working on a nonfiction book, “a defense of hope” that’s titled “World Changing 101; Why Your Hope is Not Naïve.” He’s also working on a children’s book based on a long poem about a tense 2007 Ku Klux Klan march in Knoxville, Tenn., that was diffused by a group of activist clowns.
There will be speaking engagements, Lamotte says, and there’s his music, though you won’t see him hitting the road for extensive tours. He’s firmly headed down a new path.
“Peacemaking is about listening and not as much about talking. If I could figure out a way to do that on stage, I would.”
Occupation: Peace associate with the N.C. Council of Churches.
Education: James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va., bachelor’s in psychology, 1990; 2008 Rotary World Peace Fellow by Rotary International; master’s degree in international relations and peace and conflict resolution, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.
Family: Wife, Deanna; son Mason, 19 months.
On the pursuit of world peace: “All the big changes are made of small ones. It’s a question of what intention you bring to the change you want to make.”
Learn more: Go to davidlamotte.com or worldchanging
101.com, or e-mail him at
LAMOTTE IN CONCERT
What: David Lamotte’s first WNC gig since suspending his musical career to pursue work in international relations and peace and conflict resolution.
When: Doors open at 7 p.m., show at 8, Saturday.
Where: White Horse Black Mountain in Black Mountain.
Tickets: $15, visit www.whitehorse