January 2011

Decision time-- say good-bye to the classics?

January 30, 2011 12:44

I can no longer procrastinate.  The decision must be made-- this week-- and it will end up a public proclamation of the direction my music will take in the future.  While this direction could be reversed anytime in the future, I suspect, it will not.  It is, therefore, a watershed moment.

The decision?  Which group to continue with on Tuesday nights-- the local symphony or the local old-time jam session.  During our January break from orchestra rehearsals, I ventured out of my element to meet with 6-8 players of:  violin, guitar, mandolin, auto-harp, and, according to rumor, a banjo player, who hasn't yet appeared this year.  I printed off a 2" binder full of  folk songs-- some old-time tunes but many other folk tunes played by the Norwegian-American ancestors of this area.  We take turns picking songs, and I sight-read most of 'em, 'cause I've never heard them before.  The group has fun together, joke with each other, appreciate each other's input, and we learn a bit about chords and styles from our leader.

The other choice is the local amateur symphony playing classical music - a group of highly intelligent people:  a few  students ranging from high school through med/grad school, most middle-aged like me, some who have been with the group for 25 years. The conductor is quite personable, insightful, and the music he picks is a good fit for our talents and abilities. 
But--
There is very little interaction between the players, no one goes out together after rehearsals or even after concerts.  The only time people made a point of talking to me at rehearsal was the night I came in with a  ff chord one beat too soon-  ugh-- the dreaded inadvertent solo.  I now live in fear of repeating that. 

One side of me wants to stick with the classical orchestra. That was how I was raised to play-- the classics.  I'd like to get more classical repertoire under my belt.  It pushes me both technically and mentally.  The other side of me wants to play music for fun.  I don't want to feel fearful every week.  I want to branch out into new musical styles.  I want social interaction in addition to musical interaction.

Why share it here?  I hope that some teachers, some parents, even some students might find it worth reflecting upon.  I ended up with a Suzuki teacher who never strayed from the Suzuki books.  In college as my eyes were opening a bit wider, I tried to take lessons from a fiddler I heard at a concert (he was technically really good), but my performance anxiety got the best of me.
 
Anyway, to the teachers and students out there--  keep an open mind.  Expose yourself and your students to many different styles of music. Help them see other opportunities. Few students will have a future playing classical music to dwindling crowds in concert halls, so why teach a strictly classical repertoire?  Our orchestra concerts are attended mainly by our spouses and significant others-- maybe 25 - 50 people.

The old-time jam players have played at farmer's markets and various venues with bigger audiences.  The old-time music is not terribly challenging, but is a great start towards bluegrass playing, that can certainly be more technically demanding.  Perhaps next year I can branch into bluegrass and jazz.   Oh- the possibilities!

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