Open Music Stand Event

June 9, 2023, 9:32 AM · I've been thinking of organizing an "Open Music Stand" gathering/event. A venue and time where those of us who play from printed music can perform for each other.

I've heard of such gatherings in the "Fiddling" community but not amongst the "Dot Readers."

If there were one in your area would you participate, bring along your students to participate, bring your family and friends,...?

Perhaps you have already organized or participated in such an event. If so, did it work out well? If not why not?

Replies (14)

Edited: June 9, 2023, 9:58 AM · Yes I would participate! The music school where I take lessons has such a thing and they call it an "adult recital." Your "open stand" concept is so cool, I love it because it just sounds so much less threatening. At our events, people can play from music or they can memorize their pieces, and there's no judgement cast on either choice. People play their latest Suzuki piece or they play more advanced rep, it all depends. People sometimes have collaborations (chamber pieces) that they've prepared, and that's all welcome. The event is held at the music school where there is an excellent piano available in a room with rather so-so acoustics (a rather dead space with a carpeted floor and a 9-foot drop ceiling -- basically office space.) Afterward we sometimes have cake and ice cream or even wine and hors d'oeuvres. Spouses come along and show support typically. Teachers are typically not present except for one piano teacher who is also the organizer and is also a Suzuki (probably Book 4) cellist -- she plays a cello piece and she often accompanies my violin piece. We love these events. I look forward to them for months in advance. Usually there are two per year. Everyone is busy.
June 9, 2023, 2:47 PM · That sounds like a terrific idea. It would be a low key way for people with stage fright to get some performance experience in a no pressure environment. I would only suggest that you time it during the school year if you’re expecting student participation.
Edited: June 11, 2023, 12:54 PM · George, it looks like ours is going to be July 7th in the afternoon. I'm going to play the Svendsen Romance Op. 26 -- a really slushy, late-romantic salon piece.
Edited: June 12, 2023, 12:19 AM · I agree with everything Paul said. My local community music school also has adult recitals, along with informal "house concerts" where adult students get together to play for each other in someone's home, and wine-and-cheese social evenings (which sometimes include performances). Plus, there is also a "performance club", where adult students get together to perform for each other, but an instructor is also present; this is effectively a casual masterclass format. And there are amateur music associations of various sorts that also arrange house concerts or masterclasses taught at someone's house (where not everyone attending is necessarily performing).

Skill levels vary, and I'd say that people tend to group themselves in a way that feels most comfortable for them. I'd say that there are certainly gatherings that are more late-intermediate to semi-pro in their skill spectrum, and there are gatherings that cater more to the beginner-to-intermediate range. I have generally not seen gatherings in this area that span the entire spectrum -- or if they end up doing so, it's usually inadvertent (i.e. someone has signed up for something that doesn't fit and they probably won't do it again).

These events are, notably, adults only. They are often held in the daytime, which means mostly retirees (and others with flexible work schedules). I think an all-adult atmosphere is really different than one that includes children.

(At least as far as I know, there's nothing of this sort for fiddlers in my area, though.)

Edited: June 13, 2023, 6:19 PM · I'm involved in an informal amateur chamber music club that holds three house concerts a year on weekends: two for chamber ensembles (3 or more people) in January and June, and one "Sonata Day" for individual string players with piano in August. It's not affiliated with any community music school or music teacher. It maintains a list of coaches available to contact, ensembles typically have at least 2-3 coaching sessions before they perform, and most of the coaches seem to attend the concerts, but it's definitely not a masterclass format.

This one does span a fairly wide spectrum: I haven't seen anyone in the beginner range, but the regular performers range from lower intermediate to semi-pro. People tend to form chamber ensembles with others of similar ability, with most groups forming at the social hour immediately after the previous concert.

I haven't had the chance to play at Sonata Day yet. I joined after attending the June 2019 concert and was not playing for most of that summer due to injury. I played the January 2020 concert, but then the pandemic shut down the club until this past winter, so this August's Sonata Day will be the first since 2019. I do plan to perform this time.

June 13, 2023, 12:46 PM · A few years ago someone in our area organized an "Orchestra Jam". He sent out parts beforehand to musicians in the area, and we all came together and took a run at pieces like Dvorak's Symphony No. 8 and Bach's Brandenberg Concerto No. 3. Quite informal, and far from perfect, but we had a blast.
June 13, 2023, 3:36 PM · Lydia, is the teacher who is present for the "performance club" compensated at the normal lesson rate? Curious because the whole idea sounds very good.
June 14, 2023, 1:31 AM · Paul, I'm guessing that they're paid more than they'd get for a normal lesson. They are paid by the community music school, and I'm guessing that the school turns a decent profit since every student pays a fee for the whole semester of the performance club.
June 14, 2023, 8:50 AM · I have arrived at the realization that the Violin community likes structure. Therefore, my idea of an unstructured or minimally structured venue with an open invitation to individuals or groups to take the music stand and perform isn't going to work.

Maybe I'll just take my violin and music stand outside and play for whoever or whatever is out there.

Edited: June 14, 2023, 5:11 PM · It's not that we like structure... it's that you need a certain amount of it any time you do something involving more than one person. At the very least, there needs to be a set time and place so that people are there at the same time. There won't be an audience if people don't even know whether there will be any performers at all, and there's no reason to perform in front of what might be an empty room when you can just do that at home.

My chamber music club's Sonata Day is fairly close to the minimum amount of structure that will get people to show up. It's really not much more than a set time and place; although people do have to sign up and commit to a piece at some point, it's quite close to the performance date.

June 14, 2023, 5:10 PM · Too loosey goosey and I think people don't keep showing up.

Andrew, break a bow on your performance!

Edited: June 16, 2023, 8:17 AM · George Wells - Maybe I'll just take my violin and music stand outside and play for whoever or whatever is out there.

Me: YES! Do this.

Andrew Hsieh - …and there's no reason to perform in front of what might be an empty room when you can just do that at home.

Me: That mindset that a jam is a performance means it is not an open jam. The two don’t coexist. Isn’t playing just with other musicians enough to provide enjoyment and socialization? Audience not required.

As someone who participates in the fiddler community the above sentiments capture the issue. Fiddlers, (hopefully not used in a derogatory sense by many here but I’m not sure of that) just look for other fiddlers or compatible instruments like mandolin, flute, upright bass, guitar (just one please) banjo (the travesty!) and they are perfectly content to just play with each other. No audience other than those who wander by is expected. In fact, “kitchen” or backyard jam sessions are more normal. The joy is to come together with others and play as best you can. Mistakes are just personal interpretations of the music being played :).

You just put out a message in whatever way you can that an open jam for dot readers (and allowable instruments and acoustic only, no electric) is being held under the big tree or at the band shell at the local park and players show up. And it’s nearly always all adults, some teacher or parent trying to showcase a child’s talents would get a cold shoulder unless the child fit in with the music. A kid showcasing something from book 6, this is not the place for that. But go back to book 2 and we all play the tune together - that might work!

This would work in the dot reader community if simple scores like waltzes, Irish, cape Breton, or civil war era ballads were played. Bring enough copies of the dots for the expected turn out and have a go at it. Everyone plays at the same time, no solos unless the other players want to hear the solo or it’s a performance.

June 19, 2023, 9:30 AM · Everyone:

I'm reminded of the story about the blind men and the elephant - each one identifying the creature by what they feel. Some read "Recital" others were thinking "Playathon" while others saw "Portland" and other variations of unison gatherings. A few did see this as a performance venue. A variation of the "Open Microphone" venues where folk singers, comedians, and other performers did short performances before a live audience - most of whom were fellow performers awaiting their turn.

The performance venue is what I am proposing. Not limited to young musicians, including all who play the bowed strings as solo performers, duets, trios, quartets,... Indoors because our bowed strings don't carry well in open spaces. We need structures to bounce our sounds off.

I'm not dismissing the other suggestions of organizing recitals, playathons, opening up the Portland books or gathering fiddlers to play traditional waltzes, jigs, reels,...

What I am suggesting is an opportunity that is a bit less structured where we of the bowed string community can preform for each other and our friends and family. I'm sure that there will be young musicians who will perform a whole lot better than me on stage.

What I suggest is what will work for my aspirations. Take these thoughts and put together something that works for you and your community.

Full Disclosure: James Stevens and I are friends in real as well as cyber life.

July 4, 2023, 12:38 PM · James Stevens wrote: "Fiddlers, (hopefully not used in a derogatory sense by many here but I’m not sure of that) just look for other fiddlers or compatible instruments like mandolin, flute, upright bass, guitar (just one please) banjo (the travesty!) and they are perfectly content to just play with each other. No audience other than those who wander by is expected."

Travesty? Not at all. In fact, lose the flute and you've described your typical bluegrass band.

"Everyone plays at the same time, no solos unless the other players want to hear the solo or it’s a performance."

Bluegrass jams are an exception. The convention there is to go around the circle and offer a chance to solo to anyone who wants.

I'm a member of a local bluegrass club that meets at a venue in town every Monday for an open jam. Anyone who wants is free to join in - or just listen. Recently on a warm evening some of us never even entered the building - we stood on the street corner and played, much to the delight of people who were walking or driving by. Great fun.

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