We lost one of the greatest of the greats last night. Pete Seeger left us at the age of 94. And he was active until the end. What an example. Of musicianship, of mentoring, of community . . . I could go on and on. Meeting him and having an on-going correspondence with him for a number of years is something I have cherished. Being quoted by him in one of his books was humbling. Listening to and watching him in concert was inspiring. I am sure everyone reading this can point to something from Pete's life that caused them to learn a song, right a wrong, volunteer for a cause, etc. So, thinking of his passing has led me to think of the year ahead and what contributions to music might be within the scope of those of us in the RFSS.
It's 2014. We've already had our first meeting of the year. Were you there? I was out of town (again) so unable to attend.
Here's the thing: the group is only as strong as the weakest link. We need to have some goals, right? How about this:
1) Mark out the meeting dates on your calendar so that they are not just ethereal events.
2) Consider unveiling a new song for at least every third meeting (whether or not you attend all the meetings in the middle of those unveilings) - use the meetings as inspiration to practice, not just re-play the songs you know well. (Use the theme as inspiration for learning something new or relearning something old.)
3) Plan to arrive on time (note: arriving early may sound like a great idea to you, but not to the host - when people show up a half hour early, the host may not be ready yet and now feels an obligation to "entertain" the early birds).
4) When it is your turn, avoid excuses ("I didn't have time to practice" or "I don't know what to do") - these tend to make the audience uncomfortable for you. If you sincerely don't have a song ready, then pass or ask to be given a turn later.
5) Be courteous. Listen (or sing/play along, if asked to) with patience and interest. Looking ahead in your music book, for what you plan to do, while someone else is doing a heart-felt solo is distracting and rude. You should arrive with your choice(s) already determined.
6) Never perform a piece that was already done by someone else (if you arrive late and don't know what was played, ask before assuming your choice was not also someone else's - unless it's an original, even obscure songs are known).
7) Come to have fun - avoid contentious topics, evaluative statements about people/performers, etc.
8) Be aware - when the meeting is over, don't overstay your welcome (the host might not invite us back if they find they need to keep things going long past the planning quitting time).
Set your own music goals for 2014 . . . whether it's a simple "master XYZ tune" or more complex "learn to play the _____(instrument)," goals tend to push us forward and give us a sense of accomplishment (when reached). Write them down where you will see them to remind you of your plan. Keep your musical instrument(s) accessible to encourage you to play whenever you have a spare moment. And love the music. Pete loved the music and the people and he is a perfect example of how music IS the people - we are what we sing, so sing it out, loud and proud!