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Pauline Lerner

May 2, 2004 at 5:45 AM

I heard a really good concert the other night. It was good partly because of the music and partly because of the things said by one of the performers. I went to this concert mainly because it was free and I knew that a lot of my friends would be there. I had never heard of the performers, and the genre, old time music from W. Va., is not one of my favorites. The music was so good!

The performers were two real down-homey senior gents who played fiddle and/or banjo and/or guitar and/or sang. Dwight Diller was the star fiddler and conversationalist, in my opinion. He spoke right from the heart about his own experiences. He told of the musicians who became his friends and mentors many years ago. He said that they accepted him for who he was, not for what he had accomplished. Bravo! I have a few friends like that, and they are very precious. He went on to explain that he was feeling bad about himself when he met these friends. He had been unemployed for a long time because of problems with his health. I can relate to that. Our society so often determines our worth by our accomplishments, and particularly by those accomplishments which are financial. He said that the way you learn to play music well is to sit on the back porch, play a while, talk a while, and play some more. You don't get to be a good musician by showing off. Again, I can relate to this, not only on the back porch, but also in the orchestra rehearsal hall. Prima donnas don't contribute anywhere near as much as they think they do. Every player has to subordinate his or her ego to the totality of sound of the whole orchestra.

Dwight had this to say about his instruments: He started learning to play fiddle and banjo at about the same time. He said he could play the banjo pretty well after two years, but it took him 30 years to be able to play the fiddle pretty well. I made a note to tell my students about this when they become discouraged. After the concert, I spoke to Dwight personally. I wanted to know how he "caught on" to playing the fiddle. He responded by asking me where the movement of the bowing arm originates. "Here?" he asked several times, tapping me sequentially on the upper back, shoulder, upper arm, forearm, wrist, and hand. People are often sensitive about touching a stranger, especially one of the opposite gender, but this felt good to me. He answered his own question by telling me that the movement of the bowing arm must originate from the heart of your being. So true! There is a lot of technique to learn before you can play the fiddle/violin well, but the most important part comes from the heart.

Thank you so much, Dwight.

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