FolkFire Articles

November/December 1994

note: This is only a partial article found on an old disk.
  • Open Bands Provide Open Atmosphere for New Musicians
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  • Open Bands Provide Open Atmosphere for New Musicians
    by David Schechter
    I'm usually traveling light as I enter a contradance at Just Dancing studios -- when I'm there to dance.
    I might carry a simple bag containing only a pair of comfortable shoes and a water bottle. I'll hang around the front table awhile, schmoozing with non-dancing dancers, waving to friends, slowly getting ready for an evening of aerobic delight on the dance floor.
    But tonight I'm early, by almost a half hour, carrying a big old case that I always swear is too heavy. There aren't many people around, and those who are I pass quietly. Tonight I have a mission.
    I don't stop at the front table, nor on the empty dance floor, continuing to an unusual spot at the front of the long hall, where a bunch of unathletic-looking folks are standing around with cases, wires, microphones and musical instruments.
    This is a different place, a new place. A special place. This is the front of the hall, the head of the line. This is the place, not where the dancing gets danced, but where the music gets made, where the third link in the contradance chain of dancer-caller-musician is forged.
    Why have I changed my routine? Why have I left my dancing shoes at home? Why am I putting myself in the company of strangers? Why is this night different from all other nights?
    The answer is this: Open band. I've come to play music with others who have answered the call of opportunity, the opportunity to play for other people joyously dancing. There's no rehearsal, no financial reward. We, as individuals, have responded to an invitation seeking people who play musical instruments and are interested in old-time music to gather and play for a dance. Together, we're having a blast.
    The only prerequisite seems to be to play an instrument, not necessarily to play it well. But many of the musicians happen to be quite good, even virtuosic. On occasion, touring professionals even show up unannounced, as bluesman Andy Cohen did at the last dance.
    The open bands at Childgrove dances, which started last year, are loosely organized around a fine, local fiddler. The three held so far have been led, in turn, by Carolyn Eschbach, Geoff Seitz and Mark Renard, all excellent fiddlers I may never have gotten an opportunity to play with had the open-band format not become available.
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