Day 49: Interstate Tour 2018
Some more folks showed up for the final 3-Day Intensive sessions for all skill levels, one who was registered and a couple who noticed something was going on in the OJ North building and decided to join us. I've been teaching elements by using a method of practice and rehearsal that blends together three main areas of focus: technical, repertoire and free-play.
The technical involves left and right hand exercises. Rhythms and time signatures, scale and chord exercises. Repertoire focuses on learning new material and free-play is just what it sounds like: no agenda, just simply playing your instrument whether you know what you're doing or not. Without some detailed ideal in mind, your mind is free to pick up on little bits of discovery, a new chord, a hot lick, some bright colors, and you can add these to your skill set, plus it's just nice to simply play the thing and not get all hung up in remembering what you know. It's essentially improvisation.
I aim to split my rehearsal time into those three regions evenly and encourage my students to do the same, so I incorporated elements of those three areas into each session as examples.
It was a great day, saw lots of breakthroughs, had lots of laughs, and I pushed every level to the edge of their abilities while still giving them things that were fairly easy to grasp and polish. I think it's important to generate successes while teaching, help students accomplish things in the moment, while still challenging them with the things that still need work. It's a method that has produced very real results, and I'm constantly surprised because I never trained as an educator.
My guiding concept of pedagogy is to remember that, not long ago, this stuff was all new to me. I mean, I've been able to play by ear since I was a kid, but if you'd asked me what the actual notes were, what chords I was playing, what scales I used for the melodies, and I'd look at you like you'd just asked me for a hot cup of watermelon wine. I didn't begin to actively study music theory until 2006 and I didn't go to school for that, either. Books were purchased, videos were watched, sources were checked. I worked for the knowledge and I work for it every freaking day, because the mind sure ain't what it used to be.
So, I totally identify with the folks in my class as they furrow their brows and tilt their heads while contemplating the stuff that I hurl at them in the classroom. It's not something that I've done all my life, there's no distance between me and them. We're all in this together for the love of music, so I pay attention to their signals and watch their hands to be sure that they've kinda/sorta got it before I introduce new elements. I use repetition of phrases and exercises to lock-in key points, expand my answers to questions and do my best to encourage those who get frustrated while trying to get the hang.
There's still a part of me that's not quite sure of myself when I get in front of a class. I feel a bit like the real Wizard of Oz, behind a curtain with some big machine that projects an image of me in front of a frightened Dorothy. My concerts, Dulcimerica, the instructional books and CDs, they're all the "front line" of my brand and that's usually how many people first are exposed to what I do. In the classroom, though, I consider myself to be just a little farther ahead in the same book that we're all trying to memorize and utilize. It's always simply amazing to me when someone gets a key concept, their eyes open wide and they exclaim, "oh, OH! I finally get it!" Each new milestone is truly a reason to celebrate.
As in the previous two days, I videotaped the sessions with two cameras and then ran back to Imua and processed the media in preparation for editing. When we are all said and done at 5 pm today, I had 18 hours of footage whirring away on the drive. Students will receive the videos for the sessions they attended while my patrons on Patreon will have access to the entire collection.
Wednesday is vendor set-up day and I had about an hour before the area would close, so I quickly unloaded my schtuff from Imua, carted it over to the vendor barn and set up. I've had the same space since I first began attending and it's a nice one, right by an entrance and across from David's Dulcimers, who always attract a lot of traffic.
I threw together a quick dinner while I set the laptop to do its magic on a number of fronts, then took a shower, grabbed my dulcimer case, hopped on the bike and rode down the street to where Rick Thum had been holding his 3-Day Hammered Dulcimer Intensive. They always end their event with a great big jam that mountain dulcimers are welcome to (I'll explain about the history of these two instruments at this festival in another post - it's rich) and it's a perfect place for the students to practice what I've taught them during the week. Rick's a top-notch performer and a fabulous jam leader who really knows how to make it fun. You don't even realize that you've been sitting there for two hours until he says, "we should've been out of here five minutes ago."
Arriving back at the Osceola County Fairgrounds, I put the bike away, set another round of media to render, and then walked around the campgrounds, visiting with people and enjoying my first good long walk of the week. The stars pop like ice crystals out here in Osceola County, Michigan and the crescent moon slithered down the face of the west as the glow of the stage lights illuminated the empty grandstands.
It's so good to be back here again. It's always good to be here.