Sunday, August 18, 2013


I used to use this space to document my feelings and fears about performing my music.

Then someone came along and criticized it...this blog.... because it was not 'professional' enough. Apparently, to be thought of as a serious musician, one must put forth an attitude of complete confidence, not admit to what you know are your weak points as a musician and promote promote promote.

As time goes on, though, I start to realize that I am who I am who I am. And there are other things that I am not. And I have forgotten about PRACTICE, working on the material you are going to ask people to spend TIME listening to.....

Last week, I worked the Hudson Music Fest. I did not put a lot of work into my set, after all, I play these songs here and there on the street, in the song circle, at home. Right.

Wrong. I got on stage unprepared. I delivered a set that I would have been proud of.... 8 years ago. I embarrassed myself and my friend who got on that stage with me. I tried, at the last minute, to get people to come up with me, I guess so that I had a reason to not sound tight. I am apologizing to all those people. You were smart. I was unprepared. I am sorry.

And this weekend, I played the Copake Farmers Market. Songs that were not written by me or Betsi, but we have been practicing. Practicing by standing on the street and playing each week. Figuring what works best, what sort of things make people stop for a minute out of their day to listen. Working out harmony. Fooling around the sounds we can make on our instruments so that the music is interesting. Arranging the songs so that the natural story is told and emphasized. Working, really. But having fun too, because if it is not fun for us, it won't be fun for the audience....

And this week, this past Saturday, we delivered. We had some bomb songs. We had a great many with tight harmonies, interesting musical breaks and right-on vocal deliveries. We tried some new songs and worked on some other songs. We watched people who stood at a distance and obviously paused to hear us, stopping later on to tell us it was pleasure to have us play.

We had a conversation about the search for perfection.... and how illusive it is. How serving the spirit of the music seems to work better for us than serving the search for the perfect note. I do have to admit that the search for expanded skills does give one the power to express more spirit, but it interferes with spirit when it is done in the vacuum of perfection. When I try to be perfect, the music lacks the living energy that makes it communicate with people. When I try to be correct, my anxiety produces more bad notes. When I am concentrating on the performance, the spirit leaves me dry. When I am thinking about me instead of the music, it rots.

None of that, though, means that one can get up on stage, zone out, and produce music that anyone else wants to hear. NO. You gotta woodshed. You gotta work out those kinks. Try out different ways to deliver that vocal, hit that string, keep that silence, to develop a piece that is worth a listeners time. No matter how well you think you know your material, you get stale if you don't work.

You'd think I would have learned this by now. I guess it is one of those things that goes deeper as you get deeper.

Guess I will go practice now......


  1. You might want to read Julia Cameron's, "The Artists' Way" Julia talks about how to handle the naysayers and wet blanket matadors who do nothing but discourage you and criticize. Julia would encourage you to play for the pure joy of the music, and the joy of performing. I have performed just once since 1971..on stage at Webster Hall in NYC. It went well, but then the crowd was pretty whiskeyed up. So glad to see a group as you have formed to support musicians. Just may tempt me to come perform again.

  2. Read Julia Cameron's book, "The Artists Way". Tell you ways to ignore the critics and wet blanket matadors in this world. I let them get to me too. Haven't played publicly but once in the last 40 years. Just may give your group a look and listen. It is a wonderful thing you do giving musicians and place to perform, share and learn.

  3. Thank you so much!! I hope that you will come along to the Song Circle and check us out!!


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