Day 30: Interstate Tour 2018
There are five periods of classes each day at Kentucky Music Week and some excited and ambitious individuals sign up for all five (it's usually their first time and they never do it again.) From my four years of experience at KMW, Wednesday is usually when you can detect a sort of mental fatigue that begins to weigh in on everyone. From the intense focus of learning and concentrating to the moving from place to place and the loads of fun to be had jamming, sightseeing and airing out wet camping gear, it's a blast at the same time that it can be nutty exhausting. But that didn't really seem to happen this year. I mean, on a basic physical level, yeah, everyone's moving just a little bit slower on Wednesday, but that information overload zombie stare wasn't nearly as present as I've seen it.
In 2006, when I took four workshops with Stephen Seifert, Don Pedi, Butch Ross and Lorraine Lee Hammond, it felt like my brain was going to spill out of my ears and onto the classroom tile. So. Much. Information. How was I ever going to retain it all?
What I found was this sub-conscious recorder that nabbed all of the info and then, slowly over time, released it to me when I was ready to comprehend it. Some stuff clicked immediately, the simpler concepts, and the more advanced stuff became clear once I had done some other work on my own. It's like putting together a puzzle from the center out.
That first time at KMW was the only time that I'd ever simply been a student at a dulcimer festival. Later that year, Jerry Rockwell hired me to teach at SEODfest and, all of a sudden, I was an instructor, which was really kind of alarming. Then, Nancy hired me for KMW 2007. New "kid" on the dulcimer block and talk about jumping right into the deep end of the pool. Zero to 160, man, that was my baptism into the world of teaching and it helped shape me into the person that I am today. I'll always be grateful to Nancy Barker for giving me the opportunity to work with students and learn what it truly means to be an educator.
Friday of a week-long festival is always a little bittersweet. I get to hang with these wonderful, fun, driven people for five days and sometimes you end up hanging with them outside the classroom. You form bonds and have great visits, but you also go into the classroom together and share this passion for music and how to express ourselves with it. I tend to lighten the workload on Friday, reviewing what we've worked on during the week and also laying some groundwork for future growth. Thoughts about study and rehearsal habits and outlets for their music. I also encourage creation of music, rather than just the learning of it. Songwriting, composing and improvisation are subjects that come up in all of my workshops, no matter what the actual subject is. The ability to write music isn't something of the Gods, only for professionals to employ, but rather something that everyone can do. It's just like learning a language, only it's a lot more fun.
Bringing it full circle round, my students were amazing this week. We had a ball, we laughed, we played a lot, I hit 'em with a lot of advanced concepts because it's never too early to start thinking about music theory, the earlier, the better, and they just showed up day after day with big smiles, excited for each new step that we took together. I didn't lose anyone, and actually gained a few students who switched from their original workshops in order to attend mine. I presented some new stuff this week, another layer that I haven't worked on with students before and it was immensely gratifying to see them latch onto this concept and suddenly all begin utilizing it. The art of teaching, the art of anything, is communication. If you can communicate something successfully, I think that's the definition of true art. There are way deeper layers to that topic, but I'm not gonna go there right now.
But many times, during the week, we did go deep, deep into places that should've been scary, but were instead fascinating to my students. Like the math inside of the frequencies for each note and the history of the shifting concert pitch. My teaching style is like some kind of mad mash-up of Alton Brown and Bill Nye The Science Guy.
Anyway - an incredible week. Great to see and hear some of the greatest musicians in the world, awesome to see lots of old friends and now...
This looked good on paper at some point, but, wow. 8 hours and 34 minutes to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and I've got to go over those West Virginia mountains. I said my goodbyes when vending shut down, packed up and hit the road. Camped at the Walmart Resort: Anmoore in WV and prepared for a good night's sleep. Tomorrow would bring my favorite show of the year.