Bad situation

Bad situation

I’ve got something I’ve got to get off my back, partly cause I feel powerless to do anything about it. What would you tell a kid (teenager, really) who’s struggling in basically an emotionally abusive musical relationship with her group? The only reason she’s staying in the group is that the group does not let students have any real connection to Irish music outside of it except for private fiddle lessons. What she’s been taught in the group for years is that there is no good Irish music elsewhere and that tunes are not worthwhile on their own, since it’s really all about arrangements. Because of how she’s been taught, she’s been deprived of finding any joy in Irish music outside of her tightly closed circle.

All the kids there have been taught that way, but this particular person is particularly dissatisfied and wanting out primarily because she is at the bottom of the social ladder since she’s not all about partying. Therefore she gets picked on more often and never gets any recognition for anything or any solos although she is clearly the best fiddler. Those towards the top of the hierarchy typically never have any desire to leave, believing everything else is crap, so buying into the ideas they’ve been given doesn’t hurt so much. But I just really think it stinks to teach people in such a way that they think everything else is inherently inferior to being in a particular band and therefore keep them from enjoying learning and playing tunes, playing sessions, enjoying Irish music recordings, and generally having the ability to enjoy the outside world.

This is the best argument I can think of for why students should be exposed to trad and learn to appreciate it first before trying to take off into space with it. The music may always survive people’s attempts at innovation, but there can be consequences for the people involved, particularly when they are impressionable kids longing to belong to something and be special.

I hope this makes some sense….I’m trying not to be too specific it’s not so wise to trash people in a public forum…Advice?

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Why not sit down and play some tunes with her? Sounds like the best antidote to a wrong idea is a right one. If she can get a chance to play tunes your way, maybe she’ll like it better.

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Yikes, that’s not a band, it’s a cult!

I like Jon’s idea. Maybe even gradually bring a session to her--start with just the two of you playing some tunes, then a week or two later, bring another player in, someone good musically and socially.

Or record a cranking session and give her the tape/mp3/whatever.

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>What would you tell a kid (teenager, really) who’s struggling in basically an emotionally abusive musical relationship with her group?

What is she /asking/ you? Is she asking for advice? Has she told you any of this, or is it your own observation?

>The only reason she’s staying in the group is that the group does not let students have any real connection to Irish music outside of it except for private fiddle lessons.

What do they do--chain her up? Disconnect her CD player? Watch her front door? Make a list of who her friends are, or aren’t?

>…she’s been deprived of finding any joy in Irish music outside of her tightly closed circle.

Let’s reframe that: for whatever reasons she may have, she has chosen not to leave her tightly closed circle. What are her reasons for staying in? What prevents her from leaving? What recognition does she expect? Why not seek it elsewhere?

Please feel free to reply privately if you wish.

---Michael B.

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That’s messed up, but I have seen that kind of stuff up close, so I know what you mean. I think she should quit, and instead spend that time learning tunes rather than be picked on by prima donna music nazis….it sounds counterproductive, and not much about the tradition. What a bunch of freaks!!!!

This kind of thing never ceases to frustrate me. How can these types of people be involved in something so great as ITM? I mean, they can’t possibly be ‘getting’ it, can they????

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Oh my God - they sound like the Moonies of ITM. Get her the hell away from there, by any means necessary. MB asks whether she’s wanting your help, and why she is choosing to stay there. But if she’s a teenager - she has no grounds for comparison, it’s all she knows. And it’s terribly hard to tear yourself away from some whole self-supporting ‘world’ like that and step into the fear-inducing wide open spaces of what lies beyond it. It’s hardly surprising that she would find it hard to leave.

Find a way, any way, to introduce her to some real Irish music! Her youthful pliability and openness is being totally wasted, and probably crushed, with the non-musical, elitist Nazi Brethren.

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advice wise I’ll second what the others have already said, about exposing her to wider sources of Irish traditional music.
I can definatly understand the group pressure on her saying that their kind of music is best, as when I was doing a music A-level, I was the only one who liked and played Irish and shetland music in my school, and everyone else, including the teachers, spent the whole two years of the course telling me that what I was wanting to play was not really music and that I should play classical music. Moving country when i’d finished and going to my first session was like waking up for the first time.
Anyway, the thing I’m trying to say from all this, is definatly get her to a session (or build one up as suggested by Jon), as it certainly opened my eyes to the openness of the music, from the very closed minded (musically) group I’d been in before.

Anders

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Ostrich, it sounds like you and she have done some talking, yes? Or is this all by your observation? If it’s that she has talked to you, then take her under your wing, which is what it sounds like she wants, and get her out -- sounds like you could use a bit of casual sessioning yourself instead of back to back gigs! -- to some sessions so she can see what it’s like out there and judge for herself whether all other “foreign” Irish trad is cr*p.

What is it, some kind of ceili band or something?

But if this is all just by your observation, I’d just be friendly and wait to see if she expresses the above to you. While there’s nothing particularly wrong with people not liking other people (it’s just the way people are, as my mother told me as a kid, not everyone can get along with everyone), you probably don’t want to get the rep of a meddler and band-wrecker, after all! But if she asks you to introduce her to more Irish players, that’s a different matter.

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My advice: Get the Hell out of Dodge, if only for a few days or a few hours.

She just needs to find one person she enjoys playing with - the music will do the rest as far as spreading the joy.

Teen years suck for everyone (some more than others). But the trick is figuring out that it sucks only if you decide to let it. Unfortunately it’s hard to figure that out at the time, even if someone tells you.

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Wow, thanks guys…I feel better already. I just wrote a reply but I screwed up and it got deleted. So I’ll try to capture the main points. The group is a student band, Irish music influenced by jazz and classical. The girl is one of my close friend’s fiddle students. Both my friend and I were involved with the same group as teens--I from age 17-20 and my friend from age 11-20, so we have experienced first hand the abuse, the tactics, etc. We had a much easier time leaving than the student because we are probably the only two people, at least in recent years, to have found Irish music first and the group later. We both had parents who loved Irish music and made an effort to involve us in concerts, sessions, lessons, festivals, bought recordings, and generally tempered the crap that the group feeds with another perspective. Kids and even many parents that have no other exposure to Irish music are easily manipulated and seduced by the idea that they are part of a chosen few who are better than everyone else and that the rest of Irish music is completely backward and worth nothing. As for how they are “controlled,” not only are they bombarded with ideas (learning tunes is a waste of time, all fiddlers sound the same, all other Irish music sucks--direct quote after leaving an Altan concert at intermission: “you guys are better than this shite”), but those who show “disloyalty” by playing with non-approved “outside” musicians are ostracized if they are caught. It’s hard to stand up to such subtle and not-so subtle social pressure as a kid and teen, especially if it is laced with the heady idea that you are superior.

I think what we’re going to do is try to gradually give her another foundation. She has limited time since she’s trying for a perfect GPA and the group takes up many hours a week. But I’m sure we can find time at least once a week to play some tunes with her, and take it from there. I don’t think we can expect her to go cold turkey, but we can do it concurrently if it’s informal and brief but consistent. That is a great idea and I really appreciate it. I guess we didn’t see it ourselves because we were thinking more along the lines of “How can we get her out? What can we offer her to fill the Irish music void once she’s out?”

Many people have had bad experiences with this situation, but until you’re out it feels that you are alone. There is definitely a mob mentality that puts loyalty to the organization above all else, and there are some pretty screwed-up adults running the show. I could write a book of ourtrageous things that have been said and done in this group, some of which would probably interest the police. Sadly, one of the more innocuous may be that a deliberate (in my opinion) effort is made to keep the students from being able to enjoy the music with anyone else under any other circumstances. The rehearsals are arranged to make maximum demands on a student’s time so that they have a hard time pursuing anything else without missing a rehearsal, which is asking for a nasty reaction. The whole attitude is a little too close to “If I can’t have you, then nobody will.” If we can at least find a way to help the people we know, that’s probably the best we can do.

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Gee, sounds like your average orchestral group to me. 🙂

Okay…this group sounds over the top, but is it really so serious that the kids need de-progamming? Doesn’t this girl’s fiddle teacher (your friend) have some influence? And doesn’t this girl have a will of her own (my teenage boys certainly exercise theirs)?

I’m assuming this is in the US? (I wanna know what city so I can go hear this group of hotshot kids play Take Five as a slip jig.) Well, it’s a free country--adults can force their kids to suffer almost anything in the name of bettering themselves. Go watch a soccer match or basketball game any weekend in any town. Every public school music experience my kids have ever gone through has fed them crap about a narrow “right” way to make music and the inferiority of any music other than classical and jazz. While that may be appalling and shameful to you and me, it’s not a crime.

Sure, help her find her own way with the music. See where she takes it from there.

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Last time I had my brain washed it shrunk three sizes and the color faded sumptin serious. But I found 57 cents and two banjo picks in the lint catcher….

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well, the stuff that might be considered a crime would have to do with getting underage kids drunk(13,14 year olds as well as 18 and up) and allowing them to drive home, statutory rape, stuff like that…

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Statutory rape? Is there a *reason* then that you haven’t gone to authorities? That may not be unforgiveable, but it’s treading dangerously close, given that I don’t know the specifics.

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We’ve definitely considered going to the authorities, and been pretty conflicted about what to do. The main reason that we haven’t is that we only had proof of one long-term relationship, and one incident where the mother had a suspicion based on some comments and before anything happened removed the kid (the mother didn’t know about the relationship--only a few people ever did.) The relationship was eventually broken off by the girl. My friend thinks if it’s really over, it’s not worth hurting the guy’s wife by having her find out. We’re of course not qualified to assess the risk to the remaining kids, but I certainly wouldn’t trust the guy myself. He’s already shown himself to be unworthy of trust in other areas…did I mention fraud in relation to copyright yet? If only there was a way to find out if he’s a danger to anyone or if it was just an affair and a lapse in judgement. I’d feel terrible if I were ever to hear that something had happened to someone because we were worried about protecting his wife.

It’s all a big mess. I really doubt that many things, even technically legal things, that go on there would be tolerated in the public school system or in any major organization since it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen (for various mostly non-musical reasons.) Different people deal with it in different ways. The more strong-willed seem to identify with the leader and put a lot of energy into enforcing the unwritten rules. This girl is afraid of rocking the boat; she’s pretty bitter about the whole thing, but says she really has no friends and no life outside of the group, and she’s more afraid of leaving than of staying. It’s also the kind of thing where you watch others being mistreated for years, and you think it can never happen to you, as long as you show your loyalty and follow the rules, so you never stick up for anyone and just ignore it, and then suddenly it’s your turn and you wonder what happened to al the people you thought were your friends. Personally, if it were my student--and I’ve been through this exact thing with one of my students--I’d tell her to get out of it, period. But I had more influence with my student than my friend does with hers, primarily because my friend’s student is more heavily invested in the group and has not been quite as outrageously treated as mine was. (Why should a grown man feel the need to call an eleven-year-old a stuck-up bitch for not playing part of a gig due to injury?) It’s always better to get out of a situation before it escalates, but sometimes it takes something drastic to force action. My friend and I both regret waiting until that point to get out ourselves, and it’s hard to see it happen all over again. Unfortunately, that’s what it seems to take for people to finally see that everything anyone ever warned them about was true.

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Ostrich, this has gone way out of the realm of trying to find out some advice on a Net message board. I really really highly suggest you talk with someone in your area who you can trust to keep your talk confidential but who can also help you in the arena of safely reporting this situation -- such as a mental health professional -- to help you decide what to do.

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And, btw, I wish you, in all seriousness, a lot of luck and offer support in any way should you choose to seek it from me! Good luck!

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By the way, I didn’t mean to open such a can of worms here…it started out with mostly musical frustration, but I should have known that would lead to the other stuff coming up. I’ve wondered for a long time if this guy should be reported…

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If the situation is really as you describe it, this is way beyond one girl’s dilemma over musical influences. If I were in your shoes, I’d go to the authorities.

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Zina, I cross-posted that last one with you. Thanks, and you are right. I take comfort from the fact that at least there are two moms that know, plus my own parents, and two other friends of the girl involved…so it shouldn’t be that I feel I should have to do something. I guess another reason I haven’t is that I figure one of the real adults (I’m 21) who knows about it should be handling it, and my responsibility is to keep myself, my friends, and my students out of it. Apparently, though, that’s what everyone is thinking--“as long as it’s not my daughter.” I guess someone’s got to be the first to act…

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*sigh* Sorry you have to go through this, Ostrich. If it’s any comfort, no one ever really feels like they’re “real” adults -- it’s one of the great secrets of life that you never find out until you’re over the age of “kid”, whenever the hell that is.

Again -- there’s ways to do this, and ways to do this. You need to find someone with experience helping people make decisions who know all the possible options for someone in your shoes, who will keep the process confidential if you decide that it’s not something you can or should do.

Good luck! Let us/me know if you have need of any help we can offer.

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Hup, yeah, I’m 45 going on 12, so don’t count on ever feeling like an adult. An adult is just someone who gets saddled with responsibilities heavier than they think they can bear. That’s all of us, sooner or later.

I’d echo Zina’s advice--find a counselor or teen hotline or domestic violence center you can call. Most phone books have a section on “Community Services” up front in the Community pages. There are safe houses for women and children, and someone there will know who needs to hear this story. You might also try discussing it with the parents who know to see if they’ll report it with you.

Be careful about reporting what you know first hand versus what you’ve heard through the grapevine. If what you really have to go on is second-hand news, make that clear to whoever you tell the story to.

Seems to me that victims of abuse understandably don’t want to relive it, but it’ll eat them alive if they try to bury it inside.

Good luck.

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BTW -- your instincts are good. It’s always worth remembering that lives and hearts balance on the point of what you choose to do. Go slowly and carefully and consider what you do at every step, and you’ll be able to feel that you did what you knew to be right at the time -- which is all anyone can ever do.

Will has an excellent point about the firsthand vs the secondhand.

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Hi
Sean Cleland here weighing in on Ostrichfeathers posts. I am, among other things, an Irish music teacher based in Chicago, where I am pretty sure that this cultish school is located. If it is in fact located in Chicago, which I’m certain it is, then I know ostrichfeathers and know her fiddle playing, teacher friend. Perhaps I should recuse myself at this point, but instead I am going to offer an opinion or two.
---By the way Will, (hello there, met you, I believe at my Cullen’s session several years ago) this “band” does in fact superimpose a watered down, weak approximation of the intro to “Take Five” with some trad tune or another. It’s not (perhaps it sounds enticing to some of you) any good, but I’m sure if Dave Brubeck heard it he’d be annoyed. There are many “borrowed” arrangements that this band does lifted straight off of some of our favorite records.

I can attest to the cultish, exclusionary, “it’s all shite but us”, kind of behavior that ostrichfeathers mentions. It’s as bad as she states…. There’s quite a mob mentality at work there with the older kids, who don’t play that well really, enforcing and perpetuating the group ethos.

When ostrichfeathers and her friend were members though, they weren’t like that, which maybe also made it possible for them to leave it all behind.

By the way, this all occurs in a city where lots of older pure drop trad players are still very active in playing and socializing and mentoring.

If you want to provide your young fiddler playing student/friend with a fun Irish music experience, email me off list, or onlist-I don’t care, and I’ll tell you places where there is a healthy mixture of old and young and new and experienced players. I’m sure that you are familiar with some of the Northside places, but perhaps there are a few others that you don’t know of. All of us that play need to have personal musical connections with older players if at all possible. It ends up being about so much more than just tunes or notes or, heaven forbid, arrangements.

And really, she needs to quit that band. Cold turkey, like. As you know, there is this huge world out there and there is no reason that your young friend couldn’t immediately be a part of it. There are loads of kids and teenagers playing good Irish music in Chicago right now. With much less drama, adults “hanging around with kids”, arrangements, enforced social orders and all that other crap (shite).

All the best,

Sean Cleland
seancleland@sbcglobal.net


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Hi Ostrichfeathers, get her out.
This really is a matter for the police.
If that’s not possible then these people need leaning on heavily, I’m shore there are enough decent musicians available to do it.
Good luck
PP

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Your story is way too familiar. Protect the wife and the guys next victim by outing him now. I have been there. Any organization that allows the abuse of power in any form needs to be disciplined. It’s scarey but you need to do it. “The way for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.” Or something to that effect. This Org. will suck the life out of your community and many talented musicians will be lost if it is allowed to continue it cultish ways.

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From what has been stated, laws are being broken, the District Attorney needs to become involved. Will’s point of heresay is quite valid. You can report the abuse in a second hand way for investigation purpses.

What about a letter to the Editor, Reporter in the Arts & Enetertainment Dept. & Crime section of your newspaper? If this is indeed in Chicago, The Trib would/should find it newsworthy. It’s surprising what a reporter can uncover etc. Not to mention bad press for the group. You can always send this anonymously. The newspaper has a lot of resources. If a crime(s) has been commited, the DA will then follow through.

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I loved the bit about…“The only reason she’s staying in the group is that the group does not let students have any real connection to Irish music outside of it except for private fiddle lessons…” Surely, in that very sentence is the very best reason to get well away from that group. Talk about a ‘paradoxical message’. I have to stay there because they won’t allow something that I can have if I wasn’t there! Confused? I bet she is! (This person wouldn’t be the poster, by the way, would it?).

Get out. Stay out. And do whatever you like other than go anywhere near those control freaks (and I use the word ‘freaks’ advisedly) again.

Dave

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Hey all. I haven’t posted here in years (literally) but I have to pipe in here and now. When Ostrichfeathers said she was expecting the “adults” to take action, it gave me an eery flashback. I was once in a situation where I had heard of criminal actions. I was told by 2 “older wiser” men in this group. (this was bad stuff) I kept waiting for the older-wiser men to go to the police, but for some reason they didn’t. The man who did the bad stuff actually drove by my house and saw where I lived and my girls playing in the backyard. I went to the police that moment. When this man was caught for what we thought was ONE bad thing, it turned out to be the tip of the iceberg! Police from nighboring towns and states came to talk to him. What this man was doing he had been for years in multiple locations. He was about 25 when he went to jail. He’ll be about 70 when he gets out. I know your situation may be different, but sometimes you can’t wait around for the grownups to BE grownups. Those 2 older wiser men were a little embarrassed, but glad I did what I did. BTW, your identity can be kept confidential.

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Hi everyone,

Thanks for all the support. Those of you who’ve been there, how can you maintain anonymity with this sort of thing? and what kind of evidence do you need? I’m pretty sure the girl involved would never want to cooperate (though she did dump him when it became clear he wouldn’t leave his wife.) I do have excellent firsthand evidence about some other things. The idea about going at it through journalism sounds viable, but are there any possible drawbacks?

Hi Sean…not going to confirm or deny anything, but thanks for backing up my point of view. Now I feel a bit less vulnerable to potential backlash. I really did not intend to bring up much of this stuff in public, but I was so upset after learning about some recent stuff that it all just came out.

In the past with students who’ve still been involved after we left, we’ve been careful to appear completely neutral and to listen rather than speak, until it’s reached a crucial point, which happened much sooner and more obviously in the case of my student. With the current situation, it’s probably time to push the issue after hearing about all the crap that’s been going on week after week, since it will only get worse. It just sucks as teachers to be put in this position. I’m also afraid maybe this student is just sucked in too far to ever get out, no matter how bad it gets…she was invited to join another group about a year ago, a much smaller group made up only of advanced players, several of whom had already “escaped” themselves. Apparently she acted very offended that they would even consider it possible for her to “betray” the other group, but at that time her own situation in the other group was not as bad as it is now. I don’t know what’s going to happen with her, we’ll do what we can, but in the meantime I’m pissed at the situation and what this group does to anyone who’s interested in being anything other than a sycophant. There is no excuse for this situation ever having arisen at all.

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The problem with journalism is that they will insist on publicity, because (please don’t ask me how I know) the priority of a newspaper is to sell newspapers, and television stations want to sell their stations. If you still have a wish to protect the privacy of those involved in the group and those who are loved ones of those in the group, you may not want to go that route.

As for anonymous tips, that is fairly easy -- contact a community resource for abuse (Will’s suggestion of your yellow pages is good), call the neighborhood police and ask, contact a mental health professional who deals with abuse of any sort, they can usually tell you what resources are available to you in your area if you wish to stay anonymous.

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Hi - I also think I know whom you might be talking about and if not, I am at least familiar with the type of situation. Please email me off-line. I am concerned and interested in helping, if I can. Kate (Wade) Dowling, St Paul, MN

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Sorry - my email is: thedowlings@comcast.net