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Vermont: Land of maple syrup, ski slopes, covered bridges and snow-capped mountains. Few people would associate the Green Mountain State with the didgeridoo, a wind instrument native to Australia. Until they've heard Michael "Tree" Sampson, that is.
Sampson's a one-man band who performs daily on Church Street in downtown Burlington.
"I grew up in upstate New York and I've been trying to survive as being a street performer in New England for the last couple of seasons," Sampson says. "I play didgeridoo and el cajon — a box drum — have puppets on my feet and a tambourine on my foot and a shaker on my other foot.
"I use crafts and visual media along with rhythm to just break people out of their patterns — just shaking them up."
Sampson also performs in a homemade mask that, depending on who you ask, resembles a deer, an owl and other animals.
"The wooden mask was originally supposed to be a deer mask," he says. "The nose didn't work out and all of a sudden it's worked its way back into this kind of owl-human, just nature-spirit thing."
Sampson says he thinks of himself not only as a musician, but as a healer, too.
"You're kind of trying to be like a kind of magician," he says. "It brightens people's days and kids dance. Things with rhythm that make you dance, they're healing. They're good for the public."