Brennan M. Gilmore
Gilmore performs at Solly's Tavern in Washington, D.C. June 25, 2010
|United States Foreign Service Officer|
|President||George W. Bush|
Brennan Michael Gilmore
1979 (age 38–39)
|Citizenship||United States of America|
|Education||University of Virginia|
|Profession||rural workforce development|
|Awards||Secretary of State's Award for Public Outreach 2006|
Brennan Gilmore (born 1979) is a musician and former United States Foreign Service Officer. As a musician and bandleader he has originated and performed in a number of musical groups. He was raised in Lexington, Virginia and attended the University of Virginia, studying international relations as an Echols Scholar, graduating in 2001. He currently resides in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Gilmore served as chief of staff for Tom Perriello's campaign for governor in Virginia. He currently serves as senior director for Clean Virginia, and works in rural workforce development, bringing IT opportunities to "underserved communities" in rural Virginia. He teaches as adjunct faculty at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Gilmore was present for a protest rally in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017 that turned violent. His film of a car ramming participants led to accusations and threats, damages for some of which he is now suing in court.
Gilmore joined the United States Foreign Service in 2002, shortly after finishing college, serving 15 years in several African countries, including Tunisia. He also served at postings in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Sudan, and Sierra Leone -- and domestically from the State Department in Washington, D.C. He was Deputy Chief of Mission in Central African Republic. His service in Africa was curtailed by a closing of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Bangui in 2012 due to security concerns. Gilmore served as Russ Feingold and Tom Perriello's top aide in their postings as U.S. Special Envoy to the African Great Lakes Region. He is currently on long-term unpaid leave from the Department of State.
Brennan Gilmore's grandfather, John Middlemas, a 97-year-old World War II veteran, "took a knee" in support of NFL players protesting the national anthem, saying, "Those kids have every right to protest." Gilmore "knew it was a powerful image" of his relative kneeling, and posted it to his Twitter account. His grandfather's activism was inspired by his own New Zealand relative, a British settler "who spoke out against 'mean and nasty' treatment of the Maori 150 years ago." Gilmore's aunt Maile Auterson, who heads a community gardens organization in Missouri and descends from a long line of Ozarks farmers, claims "they are a family of Democrats".
Gilmore served as chief of staff for Tom Perriello's Democratic campaign for Virginia governor in 2017 and formed a musical group from his friends known as Perriello's Pickers to help get the political message across. His latest group, Wild Common, echoes a poem by D. H. Lawrence titled "The Wild Common" which laments the loss of natural environment:
What if the gorse flowers shrivelled and kissing were lost?
Without the pulsing waters, where were the marigolds and the songs of the brook!
If my veins and my breasts with love embossed
Withered, my insolent soul would be gone like flowers that the hot wind took.
Gilmore has been an outspoken critic of Dominion Energy. He current serves as a senior director of Clean Virginia, an organization established to limit the influence of monopoly energy utility Dominion Energy in Virginia politics. As Gilmore stated about legislation Dominion sponsored, "these are convenient ways to open the door to deregulation and overcharging the customer." He has also opposed two natural gas pipelines proposed for Virginia, performing with his group Wild Common at a protest event to block them, stating:
We are here today to stand up against two unnecessary and dangerous pipelines that represent corporate interests but threaten the Virginia whose hills and valleys and rivers gave birth to the musical traditions that we represent.
In his role at Wize Solutions, he promotes rural workforce development in the southwest region of Virginia. The college course Gilmore teaches at James Madison University as adjunct faculty, "Political Protest and Civil Engagement", looks at the role of protests in a democracy. His attendance at the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017 was motivated by his desire to counter the evil he saw gathering there. As he explained to Judy Woodruff in an interview on PBS:
... I think any time you have this very vial (sic) ideology show its face in this country, you need to have a majority of people who reject it show up and show that the numbers are on our side. And so, that's what took me to Charlottesville that day.
Gilmore was present at the protest rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017, where he filmed the automobile ramming participants. He subsequently was the target of accusations and threats regarding his role in the incident. Gilmore says threats came in on Twitter and Facebook like: "You're a dead man walking. You're a CIA operative. You work for George Soros or Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton ... we're coming for you. We know where you are." In an interview with NPR, Gilmore stated:
I have a background in the Federal Service, a background in the Foreign Service that I'm incredibly proud of overseas, and they twisted that and said I was a CIA agent; I had been in Africa committing or organizing genocide in the overthrow of countries and then came back as part of a, you know -- you name it -- a George Soros, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton-funded effort to destabilize the country through a race war with, you know, the eventual goal of overthrowing the president -- just . . absolutely ridiculous allegations.
Gilmore and his family have suffered other consequences. Gilmore is now pursuing damages from media outlets in court. The complaint, filed March 13, 2018 by Georgetown Law's Civil Rights Clinic on behalf of Gilmore, names Alex Jones of InfoWars, Lee Stranahan formerly of Breitbart News, and former Florida congressman Allen West as defendants, along with Jim Hoft of The Gateway Pundit. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia Charlottesville Division. In a statement, Gilmore said of the defendants named in his suit:
Today, I'm asking a court to hold them responsible for the personal and professional damage their lies have caused me, and, more importantly, to deter them from repeating this dangerous pattern of defamation and intimidation.
The controversy also affected Gilmore's relationship with musicians he admired. As he describes it, "People really distanced themselves from me and even condemned me that I grew up playing music with."
Growing up in Lexington, Gilmore benefited from, and was influenced by the many other established musicians in the area, including Will Lee, Larry Keel, Mike Seeger, and Gary and Rooster Ruley. He is a multi-instrumentalist -- performing on guitar, mandolin, banjo, and violin -- and singer, who often provides lead vocals. Since forming Concordia Discors ("harmony of discordant elements") in high school, he has originated a number musical groups (while performing in others). As a songwriter, Foreign service assignments to Africa "have provided plenty of inspiration" for his original tunes. His "Kakuma" released in 2008 "delivers a chilling tale of a conflict zone in Sudan from a Blue Ridge front porch." As Gilmore states:
A lot of my songwriting has been heavily influenced by the places I've traveled. It's hard to separate the job from music when it is fueling so much of the creative process. I have a lot more to write about now.
In 1997 Gilmore of Lexington, Virginia gathered musicians from his hometown and from the University of Virginia to create the band Walker's Run, which "built a loyal regional following for its high-energy hoedowns." Musically the group combined Rockbridge County mountain music, Blue Ridge bluegrass, and the indie rock experience of Gilmore's high school band. In the newgrass vein, Walker's Run performs traditional bluegrass material in a hard-charging style, pushing the edges into other genres such as jazz, blues, reggae, and even rock. As Gilmore states, "There's a roughness to the music. Our sound is more raw mountain music than cleaner traditional bluegrass." They often perform Gilmore originals mixed with bluegrass covers of Beatles tunes and those by reggae star Bob Marley. The group stopped playing full-time in 2002 when Gilmore joined the Foreign Service, coming together for "sporadic" reunions since. They released a six-song EP titled Live at Lime Kiln from a summer performance at "the idyllic outdoor theater in Lexington" in 2008 -- their first recording since 2000.
High-lonesome harmonies and tight picking are given some edgy grit and youth-charged muscle.-- Pulse, The Daily Progress
After serving in Africa with the U.S. Foreign Service, Gilmore created the musical group Kantara, an Arab-Appalachian collaboration that earned him an award from the U.S. Secretary of State for its cultural impact. As Gilmore states: "A couple of old fiddle tunes have now become oud and darbouka tunes." Kantara means "bridge" in Arabic. Joining him in this project were other members of Walker's Run, including violinist Ann Marie Calhoun.
We knew the target audience had been reached when the ululating started in the back of the hall and the 11-year-old girls started dancing in the aisles.-- Philip Breeden, U.S. Department of State
Gilmore started "alt-country-soul band" Borden Grant, named for the provision of land by King George II of Great Britain on which Rockbridge County, Virginia was later situated, who appeared at the Theater at Lime Kiln in Lexington in September 2010 with Ryan Chiachiere, Zack Blatter, Rob "Rubs" Hubbard, and Bryan Holmes. The group fuses "melodic rock, traditional Scots-Irish ballads, and Stax/Volt soul."
Gilmore's new group, Wild Common, appeared at the "Water is Life Rally & Concert" in Richmond, Virginia on December 2, 2017. The group earlier performed at a "welcoming Obama to Virginia" rally -- where the 44th U.S. president spoke in support of Democrat Ralph Northam in "Virginia's high-stakes gubernatorial election" on October 19, 2017 (also in Richmond).Tom Perriello, whose campaign for Virginia governor Gilmore served on, expressed excitement at attending the February 17, 2018 Charlottesville debut of the "genre-defying New Appalachian band" with his "old bus-ride seat mate" Davina Jackson as lead vocalist. In addition to Gilmore on guitar and vocals, the group features: Davina Jackson (vocals), Nate Leath (fiddle), Dhara Goradia (bass), and Rob Hubbard (drums/percussion).
While serving as chief of staff for Tom Perriello's gubernatorial campaign in 2017, Gilmore formed the Perriello Pickers, a bluegrass band which included musicians from Walker's Run, e.g., Nate Leath on violin, Will Lee on banjo, Andy Thacker on mandolin, and Zack Blatter on bass. Jay Starling, son of The Seldom Scene founder John Starling, played "dobro banjo" and Gilmore himself played guitar. They went into the studio with Davina Jackson, a gospel singer Perriello attended elementary school with, to record a new version of their "official campaign anthem".
In 2006 Brennan Gilmore won the prestigious Secretary of State's Award for Public Outreach from the U.S. State Department for "ground-breaking efforts to engage non-traditional audiences and promote Arab-American cultural understanding through music" after founding Kantara -- a musical group that creates an "alchemy of Appalachian old-time and bluegrass and North African melodies and rhythms" -- and touring the world with it.
I passed my foreign service exams, and am awaiting security clearance, so most likely next year I'll be a foreign service officer. In the meantime I'm paying the bills as a professional bluegrass musician.
I began filming when from behind me I heard a vehicle accelerating very quickly. I turned and saw the vehicle in question come down Forest [sic] Street at a very high rate of speed. It went over a median area, and then barreled into the crowd, sending bodies flying everywhere.
Chief of Staff - Brennan Gilmore - A Lexington, Va., native and UVA graduate, Brennan will serve as the campaign's chief of staff, advising Tom on strategy and planning. A career Foreign Service Officer, Brennan previously served in diplomatic posts across Africa and in the State Department in Washington, before being Tom's top aide as U.S. Envoy to the African Great Lakes Region. He is also an accomplished bluegrass musician.
I was verbally attacked by Infowars' Alex Jones and other conspiracy theorists, who wanted to portray me as a "deep state" operative motivated by a desire to undermine President Trump and his administration. As a result, my family and I have been attacked and threatened.
Professor Beitzel discussed the idea and I absolutely loved it, so then we began to build the class together and Radford became very interested, so we will be teaching it as a joint class together.
It was very clearly intentional. From the far end of the street it accelerated, slowed down right before the crowd and then slammed on the gas through the crowd sending bodies flying. And then it reversed back into the street dragging bodies and clothes.
Even ignoring the fact that someone with my background--raised in Virginia, UVA graduate, lives in Charlottesville, worked to resolve ethnic conflicts overseas, politically progressive--is exactly the kind of person you'd expect to find at a protest against Nazis, their theories were absurd and illogical.
We don't think the First Amendment protects blatantly defamatory speech that inspires violence and hatred of victims of terrorist attacks and mass shootings.
There are very real, concrete dangers from these types of conspiracy sites," Gilmore said. "I think like a lot of things in this era, it's going to be the courts and the judicial process that's going to sort of determine how we continue to refine ourselves as a country to avoid the worst.
Nate Leath, who at 11 years old took first place in the bluegrass fiddle category at the 1995 Old Fiddler's Convention in Galax, Va.
I spent most of the past 15 years representing the United States as a foreign service officer, primarily in conflict zones of Africa. I have been in dangerous situations before, and I have felt the eeriness of a usually peaceful city succumbing to racial violence.
Gilmore said he uploaded the footage he recorded of the incident, which also injured more than a dozen others, onto social media in an effort to prove that the attack was deliberate and not an act of self-defense as some suggested.
Who would have more moral authority than a World War II veteran to speak about what patriotism really means?
In the late summer of 2017, all of these musicians from diverse musical backgrounds holed up at a farmhouse outside of Charlottesville to hash out some tunes. And immediately it clicked. They weren't trying to force different genres on top or beside each other, but were just taking songs at their essence - a melody and harmonization - and constructing them by playing as their individual traditions and backgrounds formed us to do. The result is refreshingly new, but also strangely familiar.
We're concerned about the ability for Dominion to continue its rapacious practices.
The proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline could irreparably harm the drinking water of thousands of people in the Roanoke and New River Valleys. I will continue to speak out for my constituents and neighbors to advocate that more research and evaluation is done before DEQ allows this experimental project to continue.
Brennan Gilmore says he received death threats from Jones-inspired conspiracy theorists after he shared video of the moment a driver plowed into a group of counter protesters at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., last year. He says he's been threatened by conspiracy theorists ever since and is now suing Jones and six others for their role in spreading what he says are falsehoods.
Their threats have done nothing but emboldened people like me and . . the millions of Americans that are speaking out against this type of hate in our streets.
For a man who has devoted his life to serving his local community, the Commonwealth, the United States, and the global community, Defendants' absurdly false portrayal of him, and the harassment that followed, was devastating.
Brennan is a multi-instrumentalist who grew up in Rockbridge County, Virginia under the mentorship of some of the best old-time and bluegrass musicians in the world, such as Will Lee, Larry Keel, Mike Seeger and Gary and Rooster Ruley. In 1999, he formed the group Walker's Run, which became well known throughout the region before the group disbanded when Brennan took an assignment with the Foreign Service. He explored musical traditions and performed with local musicians during diplomatic postings throughout the African continent before forming the award-winning Arab-Appalachian group Kantara in Tunisia in 2005. Returning stateside, Brennan went on to reunite Walker's Run for periodic shows and started an alt-country-soul band Borden Grant.
In addition to Walker's Run, Gilmore, who now resides in Washington, is also still involved with his Appalachia-meets-West-Africa project Kantara and an alt-country soul outfit, Borden Grant.
The band took a long-term hiatus when founding member Brennan Gilmore headed overseas, and since then all the band members have kept exploring a variety of musical genres.
Even Riadh and I were surprised how well our two traditions blended. Before exploring the fusion with Kantara, I would have never guessed that music from the Arab world and from Appalachia had so much in common.
Over the last decade, Walker's Run has developed a loyal following for its unique, fiery mountain-music. Walking the fine line between tradition and exploration, the group has packed major venues and sold thousands of copies of its albums.