note: This is only a partial article found on an old disk.
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
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
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
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.