Thinking about trying to establish a local session

Thinking about trying to establish a local session

I live in an area that is seemingly void of Irish sessions, and I’d really like to change that. However, I’ve no idea where to even start. Honestly, I question whether it would even be a good idea, as I’m not the strongest musician. I’m not terrible, but I’m definitely more what one would call a hobbyist.

Regardless, I have a passion for Irish and other folk music, and I’d like to see more of it in my area. Were I to take on the task of starting a session, what kind of things would I need to keep in mind? I’ve got experience organizing and advertising for events, but I’ve heard stories of disastrous sessions because no one was willing to take the lead.

What advice could you give me? Keep in mind that I’m not necessarily actually going to do it. I’m just kind of feeling out my options. I’d likely make it a point to visit some other regional sessions before doing anything.

Re: Thinking about trying to establish a local session

If you build it they will come.

Re: Thinking about trying to establish a local session

Well Stanley.
I have played ’ Mostly ’ just session’s, most of my 39 years in Irish Music.
I alway’s found its easy to lead sessions, as time goes on. I was like you,
only a handful of player’s, and no-one wanted to start a tune .
Now I have to catch myself on, many times, in a session.
To, give others a chance, no matter how bad, or good, they are .

I think you have to encourage others to start up ” There ” tunes !
Especially ones ’ they are ’ learning at… Otherwise they opt, for being,
the Driven, and not the Driver. Its hard work, but I wish you well !
And tell me how you get on - in another 39 year’s :-)
*Best f4

Re: Thinking about trying to establish a local session

The two pieces for starting a session seem to be an interested venue and a small group of musicians. You might consider reaching out to venues you think might be game, such as bars and coffee shops. If nothing else, spin it as free music that will regularly bring in at least a small group of people who will buy food/drinks on the slowest night. And if you can’t find a venue, you could try hosting a house session.

And in order to bring in listeners, make sure there are one or two solid musicians that can lead sets. You said that you aren’t the strongest musician, but you don’t have to be a pro to host a session. It’s just about being reliable.

I’ve helped host one session. It was many years ago, and while I was a solid player, I was not pro. I knew the owners of the coffee shop, and they liked the idea of music on a slow Tuesday night. The session was advertised both at the coffee shop and here, and we ended up getting a couple regulars from these advertisements.

Re: Thinking about trying to establish a local session

I took the liberty of looking you up on your map and I think your best bet would be to explore the scene in Montreal. I’m from a different part of the states than you, but I can’t imagine an area like yours containing enough musicians to support a session.

You could also go down to Boston or Albany or even NYC.

Re: Thinking about trying to establish a local session

I’m in your same exact situation. I’m no leader, and not the strongest musically. I’m struggling to find players close to home. I asked this very question here a couple months ago and got some very good advice.

First, house sessions are awesome. Low pressure, don’t have to worry about crowd noise and distractions etc. Also, if it is your house, you get leadership power by default, so you dont have to necessarily swing a big hammer. Second, all it takes to start something is two musicians. You can grow from there. There were other good reasoning and suggestions. I’ll see if I can dig it up in a bit.

As far as finding musicians, ask at music stores, ask teachers and other players. I even got a couple of bites (haven’t worked out so far) from posting an ad on Craigslist.

Posted by .

Re: Thinking about trying to establish a local session

There’s another player located in Northern Vermont (Waterville, VT: https://thesession.org/members/102887) who was also interested in getting a session going several months back. Two interested session-starters in an area is a great place to start! Again, being reliable, encouraging, and willing to lead sets is really important.

There have been a number of threads about advice regarding starting a session that you could parse through: search for "starting a session" and you should see some. https://thesession.org/discussions/5679 is one example.

You have some options depending on what sort of session you want to have. If you want to build a session in which people play melodies by ear, you’ll need at least one dedicated musician ready to lead sets, play solo at times (because there will be sparsely-populated times or days when only backers show up), and encourage new players to play their tunes — learning them yourself! :)

It’s tempting to start by allowing players to read from sheet music, in hopes of building a cadre of regulars from local musicians with interest but little familiarity with Irish music. This gets tricky though, in that weaning people off of sheet music can lead to conflict. It could help to separate out such sheet music learning from the "session proper" at a different venue or in a pre-session hour.

These sorts of "sheet music friendly" sessions seem to be a common thing in the US — there are four of these "sheet music-friendly" sessions within a 20-minute drive from me, and they get the largest number of musicians among area sessions. Unfortunately, there’s very little musician crossover between the sheet music sessions and the "real ones." I think sheet music *dependence* settles in, which makes for something very different from a session — it kills the lift and drive in the music to churn through tunes three times with no variation, and especially so when they’re played slowly.

Re: Thinking about trying to establish a local session

How far is Quebec? I’ve heard of mighty sessions at a town called Shannon Quebec beside a ski resort? I heard about it from snowboarders.

Re: Thinking about trying to establish a local session

You can find and message some nearby players via the proximity search in thesession: https://thesession.org/members/nearby?latlon=44.92185211,-73.09133148 I found a fiddler and a banjo player near you — whistles, banjo, and fiddle sounds like a great core group for a session!

Don’t be creepy about it, of course, but sending a nice message to say "Hey, want to start a session that we don’t need to go through Customs for?" couldn’t hurt anything, right?

Re: Thinking about trying to establish a local session

hi Aaron,
A teacher/friend of mine directed me to your post.
I am in Central VT near Montpelier and there are sessions in Montpelier at Bagitos on Saturday afternoons and Jericho, VT on Thursdays. http://www.jerichocafeandtavern.com/ I heard of these through Hilari and Benedict of Vermont. http://www.vermontirishtrad.com/

Sounds like you are further out, but these might be places you could find players through that aren’t NYC or Boston etc.

Mary Anna

Re: Thinking about trying to establish a local session

I assume Mary Anna’s comment was actually directed toward me, as I’m the one who lives in Vermont. I’ve been meaning to go to the session at Bagitos, but I just haven’t made it. I’ve heard the one in Jericho is more beginner friendly.

Re: Thinking about trying to establish a local session

Hi Stanley, either way you could talk with Hilary and Benedict and/or just show up. The tunes are taught at their Irish music school class, which is about to start up again for the Spring in Waterbury. Check out their site:
https://www.vermontirishtrad.com/
Wed. April 12 for 6 weeks.