Open Mouth, Insert Foot #2

Ever cringe at what comes out of your own mouth? And then cringe some more later because “out of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34)? Here we go again.

This time it was the Central New York Dulcimer Circle. This is a quarterly gathering of regional dulcimer players, a chance for us to jam and socialize. It’s something I organized because I’d been part of a similar group in Virginia; when I moved here I started collecting names and contact info whenever anyone came up to me and said “I’ve got one of those” or something similar, and soon had enough names to get a jam started.

Somehow I fell into a moderating role, which I’m not at all comfortable with. I’ve been talking about it in my emails to the group, asking for volunteers to take over that role, and threatening to call on someone if no one volunteered. Still, it wasn’t really fair of me to pick on the first person who said anything at the following meeting. I could have just not said anything at all and let the meeting proceed however it might. I’m a little too much of a control freak to stand by silent, though; if no one else takes the lead, I tend to, even though I also tend to hate doing so.

Another professional joined us that meeting, and she and I were talking about students and private lessons. I explained that most of my students were married with families and jobs, and so they tended to come for a lesson whenever it was convenient, sometimes only once a year or so. I was very pleased with myself for explaining it this way, because there was no hint of blame, even though I would prefer to have students who could commit to regular lessons.

But then this other lady commented about how that’s one reason she doesn’t give lessons, that she wouldn’t have the patience for it, and I had to blurt out that I depend on it for a chunk of my income. Tasteless. Especially considering how many of those present are my students. As if making money were the only reason I have patience to give them lessons. Granted, there’s nothing wrong with making money by giving lessons, but I do in fact generally enjoy it as well. I like seeing people make progress on an instrument I’m captivated by, and I like to help them discover the dulcimer’s possibilities and their own style and that sort of thing. I do get frustrated when students don’t have time to devote to their progress (whether they have good reasons for that or not), and sometimes I address the frustration by reminding myself that not only is any progress good, but that each lesson is a little help in making a living.

Today I’m also thinking about another aspect of how anti-social I am. I worry that, by not participating in all the jams and other musical events around here, I’m blacklisting myself among the other musicians. Maybe I have few gigs because no one wants to hire such an anti-social performer who doesn’t do “her part” to support other musicians and the businesses that support local music.

I have good reasons and bad ones for not participating. I am more comfortable in small, quiet, orderly groups. I don’t like spending money or driving across town. I need lots of alone time and time with my even more introverted husband. I’m not a good jammer; I prefer to make my own music and work with a few others — like my trio partners — to create ensemble music.

I am easily bored. I’m not really lazy, but few things seem worth the effort to me. Things that seem worth it, I’ll make the effort; I drive nine hours to go to this one dulcimer festival each year.

I am so woefully insecure that I need lots of affirmation and attention, so I’m likely to feel lonely or insignificant at larger, noisier jams, or even small quiet orderly ones where everyone else is friends with one another and Yankee undemonstrative. I hate my insecurity, so I’d rather stay home than put myself in a position where I’m likely to be insecure, and where my insecurity will likely motivate me to say or do stupid things.

Tomorrow I am going to be playing at a Farmers Market an hour from here. I’ll be playing with someone I met at a jam over a year ago; she plays washtub bass. We might also have a fife and a guitar join us. This is sort of a big risk for me; I’m driving farther than I generally do for something that is unlikely to pay much, and I am agreeing to play with people I’ve never played with before. I hope it goes well; that we make good music that will be a blessing to folks at the market, and that I won’t do or say anything stupid out of insecurity or anything else that comes from the nastiness in my heart.


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