I have absolutely no clue what to write about this month. So, I may do a free-flow of ideas and see what comes out. This month's column might be a tad bit more personal than usual.
I'm a strong believer in volunteering. I think it's important to give back to our communities, in some way. So, I do volunteer work at Swallow Hill and do the web page for the Colorado Bluegrass Music Society. I think that there's an intangible benefit we get from giving away something of ourselves. In a previous column, October, 2004, "Playing Benefits", I extolled the virtues of volunteering and mentioned the intangible benefits as well as the more pragmatic ones.
For the last two years, I also volunteered my time at the Colorado Renaissance Festival. Some days I'd simply march in the parade. Some days I'd stay and play music with the folks I know there. Yes, I got paid in tips and CD sales and continued to network with and schmooze with the folks I know there.
This year, I find I'm having to curtail some of the activities I've always done. I have a day job again, temporarily, and I have some other things going on in my life. I find I can't do everything I want. I have to give some things up and can no longer give up eating and sleeping—I'm getting old! So I won't be at the Renaissance Festival much this year. I'm disappointed by that.
While my enthusiasm may lead me to volunteer to do more than I can do, the realities of my life right now are forcing me to back away from some commitments. I hope the folks who know me will understand.
I just had my fortune read (with Tarot cards). I haven't done that since I was in college. One of the remarks the fortune teller made was what nourishes my ego is excellence. I think that is true. If I'm going to do something, I want to do it well. He also suggested that I would pursue a higher degree in my pursuit of excellence.
I thought about it. If I went after another degree, what would I study? Well, music! I've taught a mini-course in music theory but I'd like to know more. I'd like to be a better singer and a better harmony singer. I'd like to improve my ear and be able to play melody lines that I hear in my head more easily. I'd like to learn some new licks on the bass and do more "up" the neck ("up" the neck on an upright bass is, in reality, "down").
You know, I don't need to go back to school to do that. Classes are available at places like Swallow Hill. Books and video tapes are available—I already have several I bought and haven't read / watched yet. Private lessons are available. I can practice more. I can be better at what I do, benefitting myself and my various bands.
So, I need to focus more on my bands and the music I do. One way to make time to do that, is to do less of the other things, like volunteering for the fun stuff that comes along.
I read the following quote in an e-mail recently: "I've learned that 'No." is a complete sentence." I think I'll practice saying "no", too. Maybe I'll find a balance between giving back to the community and giving myself the time I need to upgrade my skills (and stay sane).
As an aside, I used to say that music theory was a substitute for my not having a great ear. I've learned that the more theory I learn and the more I work on it, the better my ear gets. There is no substitute for practicing.
Any comments about any of this, please feel free to e-mail me. I'd like to hear from you. Between this web site and the Colorado Bluegrass Music Society web site, I've gotten to know some delightful people via e-mail.
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