I'm loving being in a community choir. The director brings songs from around the world, teaches them to us one part at a time until the harmonies are developed, and then we perform once a season. No sight reading, no technical proficiency required, just tons of fun. It's a big hit, with 40 members after only a few months.
I'd like to get a sister group started, only with instruments. I know tons of American roots and other kinds of music I could teach to people, and I think I could help shape the performances if people bring guitars, banjos, fiddles and other acoustic instruments. I play a bunch of instruments myself.
I live in a small, friendly island community with lots of musicians, so the demographic feels right. But I don't know of anyone who has done this before. I've heard of standing jam sessions, but not of open-to-the-community groups that practice and perform. Have you?
I might as well air my worries, and perhaps you know solutions to them:
- The bluegrass curse. Some people can really play, and they want to play the right way. This could kill the fun of the community. I don't want music purity or blazing solos every time. On the other hand, I don't want to dumb people down.
- Jamming. I do not want to play 10-minute meanders on Grateful Dead songs. I do not want to play half-remembered Bob Marley songs as in college. But maybe some people do. How do I add some focus and punch to the proceedings without becoming a dictator?
- Numbers. What if four piano players and no fiddlers show up? What if 25 people want to join? Do I split the group?
- Song choices. Not everyone is as excited about 1920s string bands and Italian folk music as I am. On the other hand, they might enjoy them if they learn them. Are there musical traditions broad and enjoyable enough to invite everyone in? Or should I try to include a bit of everything? Or: To hell with it, it is what it is?
Thanks for thinking this through with me.