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'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?

Chet W. 05 Jul 99 - 11:48 AM
Margo 05 Jul 99 - 12:02 PM
Peter T. 05 Jul 99 - 12:28 PM
Tony Burns 05 Jul 99 - 12:57 PM
harpgirl 05 Jul 99 - 12:58 PM
Chet W. 05 Jul 99 - 01:09 PM
The Shambles 05 Jul 99 - 01:12 PM
harpgirl 05 Jul 99 - 01:16 PM
Chet W. 05 Jul 99 - 01:16 PM
Big Mick 05 Jul 99 - 01:21 PM
harpgirl 05 Jul 99 - 01:21 PM
Bill D 05 Jul 99 - 01:44 PM
Joe Offer 05 Jul 99 - 01:45 PM
Chet W. 05 Jul 99 - 02:56 PM
Jeri 05 Jul 99 - 03:03 PM
gargoyle 05 Jul 99 - 03:28 PM
Chet W. 05 Jul 99 - 03:54 PM
Jeri 05 Jul 99 - 04:51 PM
The Shambles 05 Jul 99 - 04:54 PM
05 Jul 99 - 05:20 PM
Barry Finn 05 Jul 99 - 05:36 PM
gargoyle 05 Jul 99 - 06:08 PM
Big Mick 05 Jul 99 - 06:11 PM
SeanM 05 Jul 99 - 06:12 PM
John Wood 05 Jul 99 - 06:40 PM
SeanM 05 Jul 99 - 07:42 PM
John in Brisbane 05 Jul 99 - 09:24 PM
Liam's Brother 05 Jul 99 - 10:32 PM
Indy Lass 06 Jul 99 - 12:21 AM
gargoyle 06 Jul 99 - 01:15 AM
Night Owl 06 Jul 99 - 02:09 AM
SeanM 06 Jul 99 - 02:32 AM
Joe Offer 06 Jul 99 - 03:59 AM
AndyG 06 Jul 99 - 06:09 AM
The Shambles 06 Jul 99 - 06:42 AM
Jeri 06 Jul 99 - 09:57 AM
Bert 06 Jul 99 - 10:11 AM
Indy Lass 06 Jul 99 - 10:16 AM
Legal Eagle 06 Jul 99 - 12:16 PM
Sam Pirt 06 Jul 99 - 01:42 PM
Night Owl 06 Jul 99 - 01:44 PM
Night Owl 06 Jul 99 - 01:50 PM
Liam's Brother 06 Jul 99 - 03:25 PM
Bert 06 Jul 99 - 04:38 PM
Fadac 06 Jul 99 - 04:42 PM
Fadac 06 Jul 99 - 04:46 PM
Richard Bridge 06 Jul 99 - 05:07 PM
The Shambles 06 Jul 99 - 06:56 PM
Chet W. 06 Jul 99 - 07:48 PM
Helen 06 Jul 99 - 07:55 PM
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Subject: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Chet W.
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 11:48 AM

There is a weekly Irish jam session at a local pub, and the folks there are all generally very nice and good players for the most part. They are very focused and exclusive about what they play sometimes, and one of them made a speech one night about the innappropriateness of rythm guitars in Irish music, but we ignored it and kept playing anyway. Last week only a few showed up, and in conversation between songs, a couple of them were telling about other Irish sessions they go to in nearby cities where, they said, if someone doesn't play well enough they will be asked to leave, or at least to stop playing. I thought, and said, Boy I'm glad they didn't do this when we were learning, or we wouldn't be sitting here now. Where would our education (in the sacred oral tradtion) have come from? I can sort of see their point too, though. Any thoughts?

ChetW.


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Margo
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 12:02 PM

Chet, is the jam supposed to be open? I was at a jam and my friend who had brought me did mention etiquette. But he was referring to not playing, say, a rhythnm instrument if someone was already doing so (or something to that effect). It seemed fair to me. But your description sounds like snobbery to me. I suppose if I was one of the ones who didn't like guitar as rhythm, I might try to come to an agreement about when and where we play.......but not so nastily.

Margarita


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Peter T.
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 12:28 PM

This is probably irrelevant, but after a lot of years in the arts, I have finally figured out a strange Catch-22, which is that many performers (in theatre or whatever) are incredibly shy and introverted, until they get welcomed or settled, and then they can open up and shine. The catch is that when these people become part of the community, they either forget what it was like when they first started, or, more likely, because they have always been introverts, they have never developed the kind of "inviting in" behaviour that a lot of extroverts take for granted. I think introverts also tend to want to have a situation stable, and when they get into such a situation, they find having new people threatening -- even though the new people may be exactly in the same position that they themselves were in before. I have seen this happen over and over again (not in music, so I can't say anything about that). It is something shy people have to fight against all the time: their lack of ability to help other shy people feel welcome. They are so worried about themselves that they become exclusionary. I speak from experience of both sides, I am bitterly ashamed to say.
yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Tony Burns
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 12:57 PM

At our folk club we run a monthly session where we encourage the participation of the inexperienced. We do this by making it very clear that we do not want an audience. At the session each person is encouraged but not pressured, in turn, to do a number and ask others to join in or not. It works well and we have seen some people evolve from tentative participants when all are invited to join in to quite confident performers. We have had the odd 'good' player show up and leave because they don't like the beginners. They are likely the ones that go out and start elite sessions.

Back to the original question, "Elite jam sessions? Is it OK?". Yes. There's room for all kinds of sessions and probably a need for each.


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: harpgirl
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 12:58 PM

oh gawd, Chet you have just brought up the issue about which I have been agonizing for the last forty eight hours. In our jam session one of the hosts doesn't like some of the players and doesn't like some of the playing of some of the the participants. We have been playing this jam for more than five years I might add.

The latest attempt to exclude some people was that they made up a rule that there would be an outside circle and an inside circle. No clue as to who should be where except I guess first come first serve, which doesn't address the covert issues at all.

I argued with one of the hosts before this rule was imposed again this last week. Nevertheless, they tried to impose it and I then decided to leave the session and I did with the position that we include everyone who wants to play and be nice to them or agree on an overt set of rules which would address varying levels of ability, instruments, and personal enmity.

My feeling is that above all, being nice to other human beings is important, regardless of their ability level, instrument or personality and if rules are to be imposed they must be fairly and overty imposed.

I was so hurt and disappointed by my close friend's willingess to opt for power over listening and addressing my feelings that I left. I have written a letter requesting that they do things more fairly. If not I will not go back. I think I must stand by my convictions about how to treat people. What do you think?...harp


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Chet W.
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 01:09 PM

I think it's supposed to be open. I was really wondering more about your opinions on the concept. I understand and support etiquette at these things, always have. But I don't like to be exclusive, I don't like to get into anyone else's personal realm, if it really is theirs, and I don't enjoy music that has to maintain it's purity at the cost of others' learning, or others' creativity for that matter. Peter, I think what you say is very relevant. I wouldn't have thought of it that way, but it does make a lot of sense. I guess people should have their little plots of purity to guard, but in art forms that are all about the oral tradition, I think it's not quite right to fail to make people of lesser ability welcome. That's certainly the way I learned; I'll never forget standing, mandolin in hand, with large groups of people at the Fiddler's Grove festival and playing Over the Waterfall for what seemed like an hour. By four or five times around I had it, and it was easier on the next tune. I also remember all-night sessions with such legends as Tommy Jarrell and Ralph Blizzard among many others, and nobody every saying anything about lesser musicians like myself even moving to the edge of the group. I really don't mean to put this particular session down; I like the people and the proprietors are extremely hospitable. If you're ever in Columbia, SC, on a Sunday evening, look up the Publick House on Devine Street. It's all Irish, and is generally lots of fun.

Chet


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: The Shambles
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 01:12 PM

Harpgirl.

You are completlely right. The only option open to anyone in an informal session, when they don't like something, is to remove themself.

If the ones that don't like things are not prepared to leave then they should just get on with it and with, whoever is prepared to play with them.


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: harpgirl
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 01:16 PM

chet...as to the concept of elite jam sessions, sure we should have them. If they are to be elite they should be identified as such so no one is hurt, arbitraily excluded or humiliated...harp


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Chet W.
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 01:16 PM

Two posts came in while I was writing. You're probably right Tony about a need for each kind of session. Unfortunately in Columbia there are not a lot of regular sessions. Harpgirl, I feel your pain. We seem to agree on the issue. I hate for it to get to the point where some people have to leave on principle. Makes us look like a Baptist Church.

Chet


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Big Mick
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 01:21 PM

Great thread. I dislike elite sessions, as I feel I don't fit in. Strange isn't it. I am primarily a singer of songs and rhythm player. I am incredibly well received by audiences wherever I play, but when I get among people with an elitist attitude, I don't feel comfortable playing. I guess, for me, I enjoy a session where the object is the joy one receives when they interpret a song or tune and the audience enjoys it and the musicians enjoyed playing it. I have been in sessions where it seemed the object was to show off ones ability and how superior one is to others. I usually avoid these like the plague. I am just not good enough for this crowd.

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: harpgirl
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 01:21 PM

...Hell, I know my friends won't mistake me for a church lady...But I rarely protest any bullshit because I am so used to accepting people at face value as a psychotherapist! And I am certainly no angel in the human being department!


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Bill D
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 01:44 PM

it is my considered opinion that players who are very good, or have a narrow focus may well want to have sessions where they do it 'their' way...but those sessions/sings should NOT be public...any event which is advertised, or presumed to be 'open' should be tolerant...yep, I know this is NOT always easy..I have been to events where the dynamics were going great..fine music, good rapport...until some total klutz sits down and breaks the mood with bad timing, poor choice of transition, and just plain weak musicianship..usually, fols are polite...but soon someone discovers they need to find the john, get a drink..etc..and the group deteriorates...there is no easy solution..poor to average players need some sort of example and guidance in order to improve, but we all know a few who NEVER seem to improve..or even be aware of the effect they have..

still, I will almost always vote for tolerance, forebearance, and help when at all possible..

(me..I am right in the middle ..average singer and player, but, I think, one who KNOWS when to play and when to shut up and listen!)


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 01:45 PM

My first instinct is to say that if you're an open session, you should be open to everyone. If you want to be exclusive, then you should start your own group or invitation-only session. The trouble is, I think you lose a lot if you're totally unrestrictive.
Our song circle in Sacramento is open to all, and we make an effort to keep even those who are awful singers. The trouble is, we've lost some of the best musicians from our group because they don't feel challenged. We have fun, but sometimes it seems we can go a long time between those moments when the music is sublime. It's not all that bad - later in the evening, only the die-hards are left, and the music gets good. Still, the situation we have no is not totally satisfying.
What I think I'm going to try is a "workshop" at my home once a month. I'm going to keep it an open session, but I'm going to steal an idea from the Washington DC people and ask people to come prepared to lead two or three songs they've chosen in advance. I may restrict this to songs that the regular song circle doesn't know or doesn't do well. That way, we'll keep our open cicicle, but have a resource for bringing new material into the circle.
While I really like to have quality music, I think it's important for us all to encourage music-making by non-musicians or fledgling musicians. Music isn't just for those who are good enough to get recording contracts. On the other hand, those who have real talent have every right to be able to find sewssions that will allow them to exercise those talents.
I suppose "jam sessions" refers to instruments, not singing - but my instrument is my voice. I'm struggling to play guitar, harmonica, and autoharp - but I'm not ready to use those instruments in anything other than our "slow jam."
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Chet W.
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 02:56 PM

You know, giving this more and deeper thought, which always gets me into trouble, I think this phenomenon is one more manifestation of what a friend once described as the "tribal instinct". Humans spent millions of years evolving in tribal circumstances, in which the need to be a part of a whole became a part of our make-up. Then we spent thousands more years living in communities of people that knew each other, worked together, and socialized together. Now that there are no tribes or communities for most of us, we still need them and we tend to create our own. (Look at college football). So anyway, the need to include and be included, or to exclude when we think we should, is probably an older part of being human than we'd like to think. Maybe, besides the good points raised above, this is a part of what goes on at today's sessions and dances. In prehistoric survival days, probably the weakest were driven away so they wouldn't be a burden on the rest. I think that's part of what the whole idea of civilization, and its current highest achievement, democracy, were supposed to solve. But we can't defeat our genes, I guess, even with LOTS of bleach.

Over the top again, Chet


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Jeri
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 03:03 PM

Elite sessions have a right to exist, but I've never encountered one and would probably walk out if I did. It's like keeping your kids locked in their rooms until they grow up and become properly socialized - it ain't gonna happen. I've heard someone complain about someone else's playing, but nobody was about to tell him to stop. A couple of year's worth of sessions later, I've heard the same person comment on how good so-and-so has become.

I don't understand why people would want to exclude others. I was very shy about my playing and it took a long time with people gently egging me on before I'd let anyone hear me. I have a tendency to treat people as I've been treated.


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: gargoyle
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 03:28 PM

It takes steel to sharpen steel.

Practice in your home not public.
Song circles by nature are an open clique.
An "open mike night" in the local pub is open.

It has been my honor, through the years, to sit in a private audience of 30 in a private home where musicians perform their recitals the week before they are on stage.

Some have been solists before international tour.
Stangest was a tuba-piano combo, before the master's recital

Worst was a community choral group whose solists could have cracked the tile in a shower-room. Unfortunately, the entire group had grandoeous opinions of their material and talents. THEY were AWFUL and didn't have a clue.


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Chet W.
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 03:54 PM

I don't think "practice in your home not in public" is altogether a good rule. Everybody has their own learning style, and, especially with traditional music, there is no better way to learn than by listening, and when the time's right, playing with people who are better than you. Some are perceptive enough to learn very well from recordings, but some are not and not everybody has access to enough recordings. The most God-awful musicians I ever heard playing traditional music were the ones that learned out of books. There are subtleties in any kind of music that cannot be written down. "In public" maybe shouldn't mean on a concert hall stage, but a friendly little pub session can be a wonderful place to learn. Of course, once you do know what it's supposed to sound like, practicing at home is essential.

Chet


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Jeri
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 04:51 PM

Chet, I agree, but gargoyle also said "it takes steel to sharpen steel." You can only learn the basics of the tunes at home, and I'm all for that. When you play in a session, you learn how what is played differs from what's written, how solos work, how to change tempo, how to go from one tune to another, how to play backup, how to not play sometimes, and myriad music-related social skills. If that "practice at home" bit were enforced, no one would ever learn a new tune at a session - "If you don't already know it, don't play."

I fully understand there are "invitation only" sessions, and group practices - no problem. I only object to open session that aren't.


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: The Shambles
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 04:54 PM

I find myself agreeing with Bill D?

Places where players want to get it right should not be public, but in private, or better still on stage, where the paying public will judge their efforts. If a session is held in public then you have to accept whoever comes along and encourage them, whatever their talent. It's about music after all, it's not about control.

I find, like Mick, that it is far more likely that I will be upset by someone who thinks they are a 'star' than I will be with a less than accomplished musician and the 'real' stars, the ones with exceptional talent, I have found to the most generous of all.

I have found myself becoming increasingly less tolerant of those who's ego exceeds their talent and have found myself leaving sessions, for this reason quite a lot, just lately.

A recent example: I was invited to an informal session and told that it was to be mainly songs, OK. I went along and the chap that invited me sang a song, then the next person and so on. The talent was variable, but all of those whilst not playing their own song, were singing or playing along, or at least listening to whoever was.

Except one individual, who I knew from elsewhere, to be a good (but not as good as he thinks he is) singer and guitarist. He did not sing or play along or even listen. About ten minutes from the end of the evening, he took his guitar out, stood in the middle of the room, despite the fact that there were empty seats and played a song, so he said, a chap that he knew could sing with him. His friend did not in fact sing with him and when he finished that song, he then started another, whilst walking across the room to stop singing and talk to those people on the table. All this time, the rest of us sat there politely waiting for him to restart and then to finish. I left him 'holding the floor', at that point.

All of those present were talented enough to do the same thing and entertain the pub on their own, but chose not do so. I felt his behaviour to be an insult to their talent. It is a bit of a trap, if you stay and listen, under circumstances like this, you boost an already over-inflated ego and encourage his scorn of other's skills. If you leave everyone thinks you are the one that is being rude.

No I don't think elite sessions are OK and if anyone there ask you to stop playing, for whatever reason, you should suggest politely that if they do not like listening to your playing, then they take the only option open to them and that they leave. Of course by that stage, the evening would be ruined and you won't want to stay anyway.

I do believe that people like this are in a minority and that there will be even less of them if we are not prepared to put up with them. Let them play to themselves and start your own sessions.


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From:
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 05:20 PM

Amen Bill and Joe. Classic example, 4th of July potluck and jam. Various groups scattered about the yard, house, porch. Song writers generally have an area to themselves.

My only instrument is my voice, though that's not saying much, and I tend to find the group that is playing/singing traditional songs everyone can join in on.

As it happens there is a group of three singers who have come the last couple of years. They preform publicly and do great songs and really get the room going and participating. When the song writers lose their "audience" they may be packed up and ready to leave but when they discover this room of great energy and singing they can't resist. They have to do their latest song or one they wrote years ago and hope they can remember. And all the great energy stops. Everyone sits politely and listens, or gradually drifts away.

I don't have anything against song writers, but I just think it is very rude to change the format of a group just to perform. Join in, but follow suit! Penny


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 05:36 PM

This snobbery seems to be taken as the rights of good to great players in their quest to play with those on their own level, BULLSHIT. If it's an open session then everyone plays & all are welcome. I started off playing drum maybe 25 years ago in sessions around Boston one of the few Irish hot beds at the time along with NYC, San Francisco, Philly & the Windy City. Alot of the players were from the old Dudley ST sessions, Joe Durane, Larry Reynolds, Seamus Connelly, Paddy Cronion. When these sessions later went to the old Village Coach House in Brookline Village many of the younger players continued as regulars & brought in the likes of (while touring) the Bothy Band, Silly Wizard, Ossian & what could go on to be a very long list. While all these great players jammed they ALWAYS got those of lesser talent to pull up & not hold back, I was one of those. Seamus Connelly (the great Clare Fiddler) used to call over to take the drum out from under the tabe & let's hear it. These same players still play at the Green Briar in Brighton & still pull those not quite as good out into the light and to find Joe Darane, Seamus Connelly, Johnny Cunningham & Paddy Cronion playing in the same session with the rest would not be far from unusual. If these world class musicians find playing with the not so classy to be the only style then how could one as myself be a snob about it, much less if I did anything but to encourage someone, then I feel as if I would never be worthy of sitting in on a session, EVER, after what I'd gotten from those before me. Barry


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: gargoyle
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 06:08 PM

If the playing is bad I am one of the first to leave.

I don't tolerate, cell-phone-calls, crying children, obnoxious drunks, or awful music in a public setting.


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Big Mick
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 06:11 PM

It is wisdom, plain spoken, like that that makes me proud to call Mr. Finn one of my very best cyber friends. Amen Bro' Barry.

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: SeanM
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 06:12 PM

It would seem that the word 'open' in 'open session' would define the session as accepting of all talent levels... In my experience, if someone is disrupting the flow of the session, all that seems to be needed is constructive criticism outside of the circle. I've seen a few cases where someone who was probably not ready to be jamming joined in, and one of the older (read:"more talented") players later offered to show them a few tricks, and gave them some leads to practice from... along with an invitation to continue playing in the circle. This gives someone an honest assessment of their talent, as well as the encouragement and resources to keep improving. And by inviting them back, it gives the older musicians a rare treat... watching raw potential refining itself into skilled musicians.
Speaking as someone on the recieving end of this, and is still in the process of 'refinement', if it's done correctly this form of encouragement (along with a degree of encouragement during the session) breeds fairly good feelings all around. I've only ever seen a few people mortally offended by it, and they tend to be the ones (mentioned above) who are convinced that they are god's gift to music, and are unwilling to listen to reason.

M


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: John Wood
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 06:40 PM

The jam sessions we have here in OSLO are pretty unique.
Not only are the musicians at various stages of learning,but they also come from a large number of different countries.
The ``record´´is 38 musicians from 10 different countries,all sitting round playing Irish(mainly)music!!
We've had Irish Bands drop in,that can't believe what they're hearing.
And the point is that EVERYONE is welcome.
If someone comes with a new song,people shut up and listen.Next time they sing it you'll get hamonies creeping in.All great fun....and nobody takes it too seriously!!
We are rather spoiled in many ways.There are several Irish pubs here that feature live music in the weekends.
We have our main jam session on a Saturday afternoon,so if we're lucky,we can have two,or even three Irish Bands join in.......and they do!!No matter how``famous´´they are.We've even had Dolores Keane pull out a flute and join in!!

Greetings John.


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: SeanM
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 07:42 PM

I'd like to add my personal favorite experience...

In San Francisco, first Saturday of every month, there's a shanty sing down at the Maritime Museum on Fisherman's Wharf. The few times I've been in the area and managed to make it, it's been heaven...
The only rules seem to be:

  • Songs must be in some way sea-oriented
  • Don't hog the floor
  • Bawdy songs must wait until after the 11 p.m. bell
  • Have fun

The times I've been there, I've seen professional bands that show up with full instrumentation, play one or two numbers on their own, and back up the rest. I've seen adolescents with their painfully cracking voices sing songs in new ways... some of them good. I've also heard some of the most obscure shanties I've ever imagined (5th century BC Hebrew fishing song among others), and gone away enriched from the experience. At no time has anyone ever been asked or criticized for their experience or lack thereof... everyone is made to feel welcome.

My two cents...

M


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: John in Brisbane
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 09:24 PM

I've avoided instrumental sessions for a number of years because except until very recently I felt it was like playing with robots - no discussion, no variation, no dissent, no adventure and seemingly no desire to communicate or educate. These 'open' sessions' were far from inviting. I'm off to a small festival this weekend where I hope I can find some human musos

Regards
John


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Liam's Brother
Date: 05 Jul 99 - 10:32 PM

If you live long enough you see everything!

I've heard 4 bodhran players (simultaneously) play a cacaphony behind one brilliant fiddler and not one, let alone three or four, of them get the idea to stop playing.

I've seen one "potentate from the past" stop a session for 30 minutes with his departure, being purposefully awkward and slow.

I've seen well known players at sessions who seemingly came only to be asked a hundred times to take out their instruments... and who never did. What's that all about?

I've heard lesser singers insist on "matching" great singers song for song.

I've seen great players demonstrate the greatest kindness and patience with younger players.

I've seen great players poke younger players with their bows in the middle of a tune, "Slow down; you're playing too fast; you're missing the point. If you can't dance to it, it's not dance music."

I've been to a hundred mega sessions that never happened.

I sometimes wonder how people can play together at all.

All the best,
Dan


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Indy Lass
Date: 06 Jul 99 - 12:21 AM

I'm reading this thread with great interest. I'm going to be one of those beginners who will be going into a group of musicians better than me and trying to mesh my guitar playing and singing with those who've had more experience doing this as a group. What can I expect? I've always been rather sensitive about my abilities although I've had people tell me I'm good (but I always feel they just sparing my feelings). Can ya'll give me some suggestions on how I should do this without embarrassing myself?


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: gargoyle
Date: 06 Jul 99 - 01:15 AM

Play

Have Fun

Learn and Share


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Night Owl
Date: 06 Jul 99 - 02:09 AM

Isn't an "Elite" jam session also called a rehearsal???


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: SeanM
Date: 06 Jul 99 - 02:32 AM

Nah... rehearsals are for drinking...

The group I'm with has taken to using our level check time with the sound guy as a fairly free flowing jam... Of course, it's not an open session. We're there to do a job, and since we're mostly playing festivals, the music attracts a crowd. We've had a few people come up and ask to play with us later (offstage), and we more than happily let them... you never know what you'll run into... But I guess that what we're doing before the show would qualify as a semi-justifiable 'elite' session.

M


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 Jul 99 - 03:59 AM

Do you know what I encounter most of the time when I make music with musicians who are better than I am? - poatience, generosity, and encouragement. I suppose there are those that are snooty, but most good musicians seem to really enjoy sharing their gift. I've seen that in song circles I've visited in various places all over the U.S.
I've tried to play guitar for years, but never got very far until I started dating Claudia, who seems to be able to play every instrument known to mankind. Claudia and her friend Marilyn have been playing fiddle, piano, and accordion together for years, and they decided to have what they call a "slow jam" for beginners. I've been playing guitar at the session, and sometimes harmonica or autoharp. Two beginning recorder players have joined the group now. It's amazing the progress we've all make, and how much fun we have. Claudia and Marilyn are far beyond the rest of us in talent, but they've very patient and encouraging. You sure learn a lot faster wehn you play with others.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: AndyG
Date: 06 Jul 99 - 06:09 AM

A true story,
Last night I didn't go to the session I normally attend. I didn't go because the previous week the line-up was;
1 flute
3 whistles
1 fiddle
2 guitars
7 count them SEVEN Bodhrans,
(including mine), and I believe this is a trend , not a coincidence.
My drum didn't get out of the case until after the pub shut, I played one tune and the session ended.
Two of the drummers present didn't stop until they left the session. Three of us sat at the end of the table and drank Guiness.

Now, was I being elitist, courteous, or P'd Off last week ?
How about this week ?

AndyG


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: The Shambles
Date: 06 Jul 99 - 06:42 AM

annieglenn.

You will never do much wrong, if no matter how good a player you eventually become, that you always look at it as "going into a group of musicians better than me" and that you don't let anything you may read here, or that other's might say, put you off.

Dan.

Thanks for that, have you any more you can list? It was fun and painful reading at the same time, but it may serve a good purpose if we recognise ourselves in the list. I think I came up guilty, more than once.

Observing this behaviour does have it's funny side though, maybe humour is the best way to deal with it? Humour and patience?

It is, as you say a wonder that we make music together at all, but I'm glad we do still make the effort. It is not the same in sessions as in life, it only takes a very small minority to mess everything up for everyone?

I had these words of advice given to me once: "Never play a good tune too fast, as it will be over too soon".

This song was written as a reminder to myself, after a bad night at a bad place. Playing to mainly other performers and their supporters.

Without the song, there's no show.

I saw no storm clouds appear
Is that the sound of thunder I hear?
Or the sound of warm applause?
No, it's just the roars
Of clashing egos and crashing bores

You know you're the best
So why not listen to the rest?
Don't sharpen your claws
Don't join the roars
Of clashing egos and crashing bores

Small fishes, small ponds
They wait for you to go on
They even call out for more
Then join the roars
Of clashing egos and crashing bores

The singers come and go
But without the song, there's no show
How can you sell, what's not yours?
Don't join the roars
Of clashing egos and crashing bores

The bottle may be shattered
But it's the message that matters
So if it washes on your shore
Don't join the roars
Of clashing egos and crashing bores

Roger Gall 1997


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Jeri
Date: 06 Jul 99 - 09:57 AM

Humility is a good thing to have. It's folk music, for Pete's sake! It's participatory, it's about community and fellowship and feelings, not technical artistry. (Not that technical artistry is bad, just that I don't believe it should be the primary focus of a session.)

I've seen new people sit quietly in the outer part of the circle all night until they worked up the courage to do a song. Sometimes they barely get through it. Sometimes it's amazingly beautiful and moving.

I've seen the floor yielded to a little girl with a new harp and everyone join in on "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."

I've sat next to, and chatted with someone a couple weeks in a row before I knew his very famous last name.

There are two 14 year old kids who come to our sessions. One of these is a good classical-cum-folk fiddler who was introduced by her classical-cum-folk violin teacher. The other is a phenomenal concertina player - we routinely have to go searching for our socks after he does a tune. I don't think anyone would have brought them, or they wouldn't have had the courage to play, if this were an "elite" session.

I've never heard anyone - audience or musician - complain about anyone's lack of skill. They sometimes talk about people who hog the floor, act like "stars," or don't know when to stop.

Annieglen - if people tell you you're good, believe them - they can see things you can't. There's more to music than technical ability.


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Bert
Date: 06 Jul 99 - 10:11 AM

I've noticed that it's the better musicians who are the most tolerant of beginners.

As for rhythm guitars, my guitar playing is not too good, so when I'm jammimg I always play rhythm quietly. That way it doesn't mess up the session if I fluff a chord.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Indy Lass
Date: 06 Jul 99 - 10:16 AM

Wow--thanks! I will carry these sentiments forth, conquer my fears and encourage other beginners like me. You guys are the greatest!


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Legal Eagle
Date: 06 Jul 99 - 12:16 PM

There is a club near us which "prides itself on the quality of its music". I won't go there. It's not because I'm not good enough - which I might well not be, although the people who come to our club seem polite enough about what the trouble and strife and I do - it's because when you start on that road it is the death of participative music. If people come to our club we want them to be valued and encouraged however good or bad they are. I hope, Gargoyle, you can do likewise.

Does anyone remember the line from the TV series "Fame". It was about the use of one musician only and endless banks of synthesisers, but it could have been about those whose only pride is to show off their skill and to try to best the next man. "That's not music, it's masturbation".

No. "Elite" jam sessions are not OK.


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Sam Pirt
Date: 06 Jul 99 - 01:42 PM

All the below are only my opinions

First an 'Elite' jam session is an oxysymoron (sorry about spelling!!) or just not possible. The whole idea of playing in a session is to get everyone playing together, no showing off playing loads of unusual stuff, anyone can do that. The track in a session is to stay in the background unless it needs a leader and just put your tune in now and then that everyone will know. Sessions do have different standards and many irish sessions tend to be fast and furious, but if a bigginer walks in I would play something at the level I THINK they are at or encourage them to start one. If you become eliteist you also become insular, inwardlooking and insulting to other musicians who if anything you should be encouraging, after all music is music isn't it?

Cheers, Sam


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Night Owl
Date: 06 Jul 99 - 01:44 PM

A quick story...Years ago I used to go every year to the Union Grove Fiddler's Convention in North Carolina until it got too large for me to enjoy. My first year there, I had gone up to one of the performer's booths to purchase an album from them...("The Bergerfolk") They had this "thing" sitting on their table and I asked what it was. The mother of the family told me it was an Autoharp and handed it to me, encouraging me to play it. She got me a chair, and spent some time showing me how to hold it. She showed me three chords and two songs and let me sit beside the booth, fumbling with it. Between and during her sales she would correct my mistakes...ie.."you're not pressing the bar hard enough" or "that's a G7 in there." After a while she told me that I had a "gift" with the instrument and invited me to a small performer's party they were having after the show that night. I was clearly not the only "neophyte" at the party. These people, who were excellent, experienced, accomplished performers (in my opinion) started off playing well known easy songs enough times for us to "get it". We were ALL making mistakes and laughing at ourselves and singing. I have never forgotten the kindness shown to me, and remember it now when I begin to feel frustrated with someone else's "fumbling". To me...it was a "jam" session i.e. the music was shared; the music was ENJOYED; songs were traded; lessons were learned. Common courtesy ruled when to NOT play along. That small act of generosity created another player on the planet. I had similar brief experiences with Joan Baez and Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry when I was first learning to play the guitar. I think "Elite jam session" is a contradiction in terms. Group sessions to PERFECT the technical playing/singing of a song, in my opinion, is really something different and the purpose of the session should be made clear up front..not left to guesswork. I'm sure each of us has a similar story when we first picked up an instrument.


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Night Owl
Date: 06 Jul 99 - 01:50 PM

Geeze Sam, evidently we were posting at the same time...think of all the space I could have saved, reading your post first and simply saying...."Amen".


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Liam's Brother
Date: 06 Jul 99 - 03:25 PM

The most 'elite' jam session I ever attended was in 1973. Planxty was playing at the Edinburgh Festival and I knew Paul Brady pretty well at the time. After a performance, a few of us went to the flat where some of the group were staying for drinks. Liam O'Flynn and Paul Brady got out their instruments and played tunes together for perhaps an hour straight. There were 5 in Planxty at that time, Paul having just come from NYC to join them. Everyone sat around in amazement listing to the music which was incredibly fluid, rhythmic and impassioned. None of the other 3 (Irvne, Moore and Moynihan) felt inclined to join the others. There was nothing they could have added to it to make it better. That's something to think about! Remember, this wasn't a practice or a performance!

The whole issue of who plays hinges around modesty, good manners and common sense. A really good player who posesses the above will want to play the occasional show piece but will want to play with others most of the time. Likewise, a bodhran player arriving at a session in progress should make contact with the bodhran players who're there already to let them know he'd like to play from time to time as well. When 4 go at it at once, they should be lined up and shot!

All the best,
Dan


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Bert
Date: 06 Jul 99 - 04:38 PM

My late brother-in-Law was a French Canadian. One day a family discussion turned, as family discussions do, to the subject of 'toe jam'. He said that the French language doesn't have a word for jam and called the disgusting stuff 'toe marmalade'.

So this leads me to my question... Do French Canadians have 'marmalade sessions'?

Bert.


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Fadac
Date: 06 Jul 99 - 04:42 PM

Sombody made the comment about "book learners". Yup, I are one. I have been playing mostly by my self. And you know what??? It sucks.

You alwise feel like your missing, something. Last friday there was a private jam on a friend of a friends boat. I was told to bring my box, my wife brought her drum. Well, you wouldn't want to make and sell a CD from what we did. But we had fun. (FUN remeber that?) I had brought along my partner in my accordion classes, he had just brought his voice. Anyway he had a ball, and now has a need to learn some sea chanties.

Myself, I feel way to inexperianced to even do an "open mike" type of deal. However a slow jam would be great. Now for a jam with real experianced players, well, perhaps I might try and squeeze out some chords on the concertina, quietly. But I feel that I should be there. I would at least learn timeing and some new techics (sp?) as I wheezed along.

Isn't the jam the most tradional way for people to learn music?

-Fadac


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Fadac
Date: 06 Jul 99 - 04:46 PM

Bart,

The Dutch have no word for glove. They are called "hand shoes" A bit of trivia & thread creep.

-Fadac


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 06 Jul 99 - 05:07 PM

The French have in fact no word for marmalade. They call it Orange jam.


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: The Shambles
Date: 06 Jul 99 - 06:56 PM

All this marmalade stuff? More thread spread than thread creep?

John in Brisbane.

As another one who has only been playing instrumental session relatively recently, I do know what you mean.

As a singer/guitar/rhythm player you tend to be used to more flexible informal gatherings. Some of the melody players do seem to understand that it is possible for very skilled players to play along and add to songs or tunes, that they are not familiar with, or ones that are totally new to them. I have been amazed and delighted, on occasions when this has happened with a song of mine that I knew to be unknown to the player. It is rare for this to happen and it is more often that it becomes a bit of a struggle and again the best players know that they do not have play all the time, but generally it is not expected in song based sessions, that every note of the tune be known before a contribution is made.

The best instrumental sessions are the ones that are less rigid and it is hopeful that you do indicate that you have found better ones, recently.


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Chet W.
Date: 06 Jul 99 - 07:48 PM

I think what we're getting to here is not that we have a good time with one musician or another, but that we have a good time with particular people, of world-class ability or beginner. It is their personalities as much as their music that we find meaningful, and that is what will sustain us, keep us coming back, and make us better musicians over time. The clashes we've discussed here are a matter of good manners (or bad) and interpersonal skills which, as Peter noted early on in this thread, are sometimes difficult for creative people. But very often, and in the cases of the best musicians I have "jammed" with, the very best in people is what comes out, as many of us have related here.

One night in 1976, I went to see the David Grisman Quintet in Atlanta. I sneaked backstage and talked with Tony Rice, who saw me staring at his famous Martin guitar, the one that belonged to Clarence White. He invited me to pick it up and play it, but I only had the heart for a couple of chords before I put it down. That made an impression on me.

I remembered today a story that may be relevant. My musical friends in college, who played together a lot(!), were learning old-time and Irish and such at about the same time, used to occasionally have a party/session that had a rule: nobody could play their own instrument. Some of us made some pretty awful noise, some took an interest in the unfamiliar instrument, but, and this was the point, we had a great time and enjoyed each others' company. And that may be where I learned (not only at the instrument-switch parties, but at all of them) is that if music is not fun, then something is wrong, or maybe we should be doing something else. All of the ones I know of are still musicians, after 25+ years, some became fairly well-known, and I bet they all think back to those parties now and then.

Chet


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Subject: RE: 'Elite' jam sessions? Is it OK?
From: Helen
Date: 06 Jul 99 - 07:55 PM

Hi all,

In 1988, when a bunch of us were sitting around having an informal jam session at the local folk festival (which we were involved in) someone suggested having a regular session once a week. We aimed at making it comfortable for beginners but also to make it interesting for more experienced players.

The session is still going, it has had changes of participants, but some of the originals, including me, still go there. I'm the only one who has been going along for all eleven years, although at present I have been busy and I've missed a couple of months.

When we started we had a very good guitarist - a 3 chord wonder - who was happy to play slowly enough for everyone to join in. We also chose to use a core set of songs - approx. 20 - which we found sheet music for and made sure everyone had access to the music. We played the songs in 3 groups - those which could be played in the keys of C maj (or A minor), those in G maj (Em) and those in D maj (Bm) so that the instruments which were not chromatic could be retuned to the new key or so that the lever harp could be set for the new key. It meant that people weren't jumping from one key to another without warning, no-one had to call out in the middle of the tunes saying "What key is this?" which is frustrating when you get no answer, and over time we all got better at this core bunch of songs plus some more which got added as we went along. We also loved it when people started up with a song or tune they had discovered or felt like playing. If we could join in we would, and if not we would sit back and listen.

Because I had learned the basics of guitar playing and knew the main chords by sight I learned to play along on the harp by watching the guitarist's chords. I realised afterwards that I also picked up some of his interesting rhythms by playing along with him.

The session has grown and shrunk and grown at different times - it's pretty small at present and we are trying to revitalise it. However, the core people from the session have formed an amateur bush band and have played for a few dances and concerts for the local folk club, or for church groups etc, so the participants have gained enough experience form the session to get out there and perform in public, and sometimes get paid for it.

When the idea for the band was put forward I was interested but the practice session for the band just ended up being the session, and I was really annoyed because the session was a more relaxed affair, with fun, and an easy-going attitude about how the music was played, but the rehearsals for the band were very serious and focused (as they should be) and so the two outcomes were at cross purposes. Eventually the band practised on a different night, which is why the session group shrank at that time - some people couldn't commit 2 nights per week to playing music, and when the band was leading up to a performance they had even more practice sessions).

My point is that the beginners' session worked beautifully, although it has evolved over time - changed focus, changed format, changed from songs to tunes, to dance tunes, etc etc. The guitarist, understandably, got tired of being relied on all the time to keep the tunes and songs going. It got to the point where we relied on him too much, so eventually he moved out of the session, and that was okay for the beginners because then we had to be more self sufficient.

We have always welcomed beginners, and also seasoned musicians. Some keep coming back, some move on - but on the whole, it has been a wonderful pasttime and I hope it goes on for another 11 years or more.

Helen


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