How many of you have had the good fortune of working with a musical mentor? Someone who had the time and patience to sit with you and run tune after tune, passing on their unique sense of musicality to you over time. If you have, you probably remember this person in great detail. Playing music is an intimate way of interacting. I remember my own bluegrass mentor as someone who was as important to me as anyone in my family.
Bluegrass and many other folk music is by nature, passed down- almost tribally- from person to person. There are subtle ways of ornamenting and phrasing the music that cannot truly be notated accurately. In the past, it has been transmitted from teacher to student by just being together making music. This is why there are so many family bands in bluegrass, and why it can be almost a mystery to someone starting out: “I am playing the notes, but how do I sound like a real fiddler?”
Thankfully, there are many festivals, jams, outreach programs and people in our communities who love being that mentor as much as wanting to be a student. Certifiably, the best way to learn this music (and many other folk music forms) is to find that person. Identify someone whose playing feels and coins authentic to you and try to find as many opportunities as you can to work with them. If you can, go online and check out your favorite musicians website or facebook pages. Very often, you can take Skype lessons with your musical heroes at a very reasonable rate. (Add onto this the Call Recorder App and you can record and store these lessons forever!) Musicians tend to have open time during the morning and afternoons on weekdays and it might surprise you who you can access this way. I routinely take lessons with an internationally recognized fiddler and now consider him one of my lifetime “bluegrass mentors”.
So- as we narrow into another festival season, consider whether you are a mentor or have a need for one? Do you have a way to give your musicality and a way to receive someone else’s? This is the best way to personalize your experience? Music for life friend! Here are a couple excellent websites in case you need a place to get started:
www.bluegrasscollege.org- a wide range of lessons given on all bluegrass instruments by professional players
www.artistworks.com- a great way to study with Darol Anger and get one on one feedback!
Also- if you are searching for a way to provide outreach here in Colorado, give me a shout! The Colorado Bluegrass Music Society is just beginning both a Young Pickers kids performing/jam group as well as quite a bit of nursing home outreach! Get in touch if you would like to help support these programs through offering up your musicality or just plain raw intellect!
As always- total world domination through small vibrating wooden boxes!