Just finished a fantastic week at the Celtic Colours International Festival here in Cape Breton. It is always a wonderful time to catch up with musical pals and meet new folks as well.
I was a little nervous for this years’ festival just because I hadn’t performed in a few months due to the repetitive stress injury but I’m happy to say that things were feeling pretty good! However, I was reminded that performing and just playing with other musicians is much needed practice- not just practicing on your own. You’d think at this point in my career I’d take this granted! But I always find myself surprised to see the improvement in my playing and recollection of repertoire after good spells of playing with others.
I did mention this type of practice a while back in another blog but I think its worth reiterating. If you consider yourself a learner, you may feel like you are not ready to play with others. It’s true that you do need to work yourself up to a certain point-but once you have a few tunes under your belt that feel comfortable, it may be time to find some folks to play with. Things don’t have to be perfect.
Playing with other people helps spur the creative process. Things come together in ways you don’t think of. It’s a good opportunity to learn new repertoire. Just hearing the tunes and familiarizing yourself with the repertoire is a great help. It gives you goals to work towards.
So how do you find folks to play with? Start with a local session, fiddle club or group classes. I used to teach a Celtic ensemble at Club Passim in Cambridge, MA. After a few months of getting to know each other, the students began to get together regularly on their own to share tunes and ideas and practice what they were learning in class. The improvement was much greater than had they just gotten together for the weekly class and worked on their own. Their confidence soared and it showed in the music.
If none of these organizations are available in your area, the next best thing would be to attend a fiddle camp. There are tons to choose from and you’ll find them running throughout the year. A camp is a fantastic week of immersion through sessions, dances and other activities and you are more than likely to meet life long musical pals.