How I Spent My (American) Holiday Weekend
Bear with me on my first paragraph folks. This posting actually ends up on-topic…
Here’s how I spent my (American) Memorial Day long-weekend: Friday nite: up all night taking care of my beautiful 7 week old son, Nathan - to give my wife a break because she takes care of him every nite during the work week. Saturday: take care of my son, work on my son’s room, picnic with family & friends. Sunday: take care of my son, mow the lawn (a few acres takes a few hours), work on the house, work on my son’s bedroom. Monday: take care of my son, continue building my son’s bedroom. Tuesday: Back to work… finally got to play some music at night.
So why do I bore you all with these mundane details of my ordinary everyday life? How can any of this possibly be on-topic to such an august group of Irish Traditional Musicians? Because I also spent a part of the weekend bristling over jmh’s posting on Friday in which she "politely" suggested an inferior player at her local session to "practice" and "take lessons". Maybe the player is a clod, and maybe he needed this advice, but perhaps, too, there are multiple sides to his story.
We experienced ITMers must be respectful of the fact that, no matter how passionate and dedicated we are to our music, for many of us it is not the only thing in our lives. I know dozens of ITMers whose days get filled up with silly things like health, family, jobs, etc. For myself, I would have loved to have played music for countless hours on end with my friends all weekend long. Sometimes life just doesn’t work out that way. It’s sad to think that, with my intermediate skills and repertoire of only 100 tunes, I might be treated rudely at jmh’s local session with her "boys" because that session might be my only chance to play that week, and with precious little practice time, my playing may be mistake-prone.
I’ve been fortunate enough to play in sessions in Ireland and America which were led by true master players - Bill McKomiskey, Eamonn Dillon, Tom O’Shaughnessy, and others. These leaders were inclusive, gracious, supportive, encouraging… …and even complimentary. Once in Dublin I was invited by Connie O’Connell to join a session with him, Charlie Lennon, Kevin Burke, and other living legends - even after he heard me play!!! I politely declined, of course!!! The moral of the story is that the true masters of ITM recognize themselves as ambassadors of the tradition, rather than owners of it.
The irony in jmh’s post is that she concludes by saying that since she gave her "friendly advice" to the inferior musician, he has not been a problem anymore because he "hasn’t shown up in a while". Sadly, I wonder if she recognizes that there may be a connection. We who aspire to be masters may never get there from a skills perspective, but that should never stop us from getting there from a maturity perspective.
Actually, I lied. I did get an hour of practice time on Saturday nite - at 3:30 AM, after my son finally fell asleep. I played outside in my front yard, with the faint peaceful glow of pre-dawn on the eastern horizon. The beautiful echo from the surrounding hills made for quite a sublime flute duet. I can proudly say that the bloke playing on the other side of the valley, 1/4 second out of sync with me, sure played some nice flute!