faking it


I’ve been taking violin lessons for quite a few years now. (I’m not really sure how to count the years, given the big interruptions. I started 11 years ago, but maybe missed 4 of those years I also don’t know how my progress in those “on” years counts, given that there have been quite a few slowdowns and interruptions.) In any case, I consider myself to be an intermediate player. Mostly, I have played classical music with my teacher. Last year, after my experience playing fiddle along with the American folksongs performed by the elementary school, I felt the urge to explore fiddling a bit more. I bought a couple of books: 1 on Celtic fiddling, and one on bluegrass fiddling. Each came with a CD. I started with the Celtic book/CD, and it was complicated enough that I decided to just stick with that. I’ve been enjoying playing songs from it for the past year or so, on my own, in addition to the classical music that I work on with my teacher. I never got around to cracking open the bluegrass book.

A few weeks ago, a musician friend of mine sent an email asking if I had any interest in taking one of the workshops offered as part of a bluegrass festival in Cambridge. I was so very tempted by the intro to bluegrass fiddling. At the same time pretty intimidated. I’d never taken a music workshop before, and have very rarely even played the violin in front of other people. I have performed in front of others now, a few times, but only after much preparation and practice. This would be going in cold.

I decided to do it anyhow.

So, today, I went to a workshop on intro bluegrass fiddling. It was a lot of fun, but a little overwhelming. It was a 2-hour course, but after about an hour and a half, I found that my stomach was empty and my brain was full. I muscled through, though. And I think I learned a lot, some fraction of which I may even be able remember. One thing that amused me was that the instructor described a lot of what he taught us as tricks, including how to play along when you don’t know the music. I’m hardly ready for a bluegrass jam, but I think I now know how to fake my way through at least one bluegrass song.

For added flavor, here is a bluegrass band playing Angelina Baker, the tune that we used for much of the lesson¹:

¹ And one which the other 3 participants all seemed to know. I felt good² that I could make the other students feel better about their knowledge by being the one who didn’t know much of anything.
² For some definitions of good
³ I’m sorry if this isn’t very coherent. I’m actually completely wiped out. It was a long day, given that I had an hour plus commute each way, and stayed for part of the bluegrass show that followed. (Which, by the way, was excellent.) And I think I am fighting off a cold. But when I commit to blogging daily, by gum, I commit to blogging daily.

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3 responses to “faking it

  1. Great post and blog! Check out my blog for inspiration on living a good healthy life!

  2. Wow! Good for you for going even if you were intimidated! It sounds like a good experience (for some values of the word “good”, which is the mathematician’s way of saying “for some definitions…”)–by which I mean that even if you are exhausted from it, and even if you hardly remember any of it, I’m sure some of it was valuable. I think it’s really great that you went, and that you’re seeking out new challenges in your violin-playing. Is Phoebe still taking lessons too?

  3. I adore bluegrass, and that you went to a workshop even though you weren’t certain you could handle it. Mad kudos to you. And your first footnote makes me laugh. It’s true! Someone has to be that person!

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