Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Bluegrass Jam or Bluegrass Boot Camp?

By now, you may be aware that I am going to resume (after an 11 month break) the weekly Bluegrass jam sessions at the Saint John Marina with the help of my wife Helen and some of my Bluegrass Friends.

When I started the original Bluegrass Friends jam sessions on July 25, 2005, everyone in attendance was enthused and excited; everyone was happy they had another place to jam and lots of people said "thanks for doing this." It didn’t take long however, before I realized I couldn’t keep everybody happy. I tried my best to accommodate everyone, but whenever I did something to make one group of people happy, I was making another group angry.

I had never done anything like this (organizing a jam) before and I didn’t know what to do about the unhappy people. It didn’t appear to take much to make some people unhappy either; something as simple as asking somebody to sit in the jam circle could set certain people off - who was I to make such a ridiculous suggestion?

After a couple months of organized chaos, I came to the conclusion that I had to stay true to my original intent of the jams; namely, to learn and play Bluegrass music. From that point on I was on a mission and I'm here to say that it wasn't easy trying to enforce the rule I had set forth - Bluegrass music only! Not John Prine, not country music, not rock & roll! Bluegrass!

I bet many people won’t believe this, but before I started the jam sessions I was mostly an introvert. Thanks to having to deal with the public at the jam sessions, I am no longer an introvert. In fact, I pretty much speak my mind now. Some people respect that; others don’t.

Some people equate the enforcement of the jam session rules with the idea that I like to tell people "the way it's going to be." Nothing could be further from the truth. I don't like having to confront people when they are not following the rules any more than the next guy, but it needs to be done from time to time for the sake of keeping the jam sessions on track and true to their purpose.

I find it very awkward when I have to speak to someone and I wish I never ever had to do it. There are lots of people that want to say something to somebody, but often times they let me be "the heavy" because in their minds I don't mind taking on that role, but as I said, this is not the case at all. I have even had people say to me "I don't want to say anything, but you can do it - you're used to it."

Something people have learned about me is that I’ll tell the truth when asked a question. With that in mind, you’d be much better off asking your questions to someone else if your only reason for asking is to hear a positive remark. I'm not saying that I never respond with a positive remark; I'm simply saying that you had better be prepared for a possible negative response as well. If a positive answer is appropriate, that’s what you’ll get. If you want an honest opinion, by all means, ask me. Again, some people respect me for my honesty, others don’t like it at all.

My son has accused me of running a Bluegrass Boot Camp at the weekly jam sessions. He says "just let people play what they want. You might hurt their feelings." I say "that's just too bad!" From the very beginning, inclusive of the first e-mail newsletter I published on July 18, 2005 announcing the first jam session, I stressed the purpose of the Bluegrass Friends jam sessions, which is to learn and play Bluegrass music; and I reminded people week after week after week until I sounded like a broken record.

If people don't want to conform to the Bluegrass only rule, there are several jam sessions in the Saint John and surrounding areas that offer a "do whatever you want" format, and that is precisely where I would suggest they go; others may suggest another place. I'm not offering a free-for-all type of jam; I have a mission and I'm going to do whatever I can to see it accomplished. If people don’t like Bluegrass music they shouldn’t be going to the Bluegrass jams. Why would anyone attend an event they don’t care for? If they do like Bluegrass, then the Bluegrass jams should be right up their alleys.

So, am I running a Bluegrass boot camp? Well, if you perceive trying to keep a Bluegrass jam on the straight and narrow Bluegrass road, then perhaps to you, I am.

The Bluegrass Friends weekly jam sessions will resume at the Saint John Marina on June 2, 2008. Welcome.

Keep pickin' and keep it Bluegrass!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Mike WHEW-you sure know how to tell it like it is.Im glad that you are expressing what a lot of us have wanted to express but just didnt know how to.
You are completely right in demanding Bluegrass Only at these jams.I for one enjoy all types of music,but I know where I can find these other types of music.When I want Bluegrass I want Bluegrass,not folk,country or rock.Lets remember what these Bluegrass jams are for...To promote the learning and playing of Bluegrass Music.
Mike once again thank you for what you are trying to do.It will be a hard road but I know that if we all pitch in we can make this the BEST BLUEGRASS JAM anywhere....Bluegrass forever ...Fungus

Friday, April 04, 2008 1:36:00 PM  

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