Today my boy Jack (who is a fabulous musician) and I (who am hack musician) are heading to Chicago for the annual fleadh cheoil. This is a big competition for those of us who play traditional Irish Music. Jack will compete solo in fiddle and mandolin and then later in the day, we will both compete in the group competition. It is a wonder to watch Jack play in the solo competition. Fiddle especially is a huge field of really great musicians and each one plays independently in front of the judge while everyone else looks on. This gives me a nauseous and shaky feeling just writing about it. He is simply grace under pressure.
I have been thinking a good bit about risk lately. The things that we do in life to keep ourselves challenged, to get us out of our shells in order to grow. For me, music ranks highly in this department because until a few years ago, I was not a musician. Now I can play with my friends and we can sound pretty good. The difficulty comes with the notion of being on stage. You cannot imagine (well, perhaps you can) the level of terror on a truly gut level that I get when it comes time to play for the judges. Intellectually I know its silly. We are not really playing to win. We just love to play. We love the preparation and the creativity that goes into arranging some trad tunes into a playable/ listenable 7 or 8 minutes. The first time I played at the fleadh I was literally so scared stiff that I don’t think I was able to play 3/4 of the notes required. I have come a long way to where I no longer feel total faint but still have to struggle to keep my nerves under control. It used to be a struggle for me to get the guts up to play at a session and now I play at least one a week with my fellow musicians. I get such joy from this that I think sometimes ‘somebody just pinch me, I can’t believe I am actually doing this!’. I am so grateful for this gift of music and for what it has done for my over all self-confidence.
But why do I push to get over stage fright and my shyness around people I do not know? Because this is what being alive feels like. Because in the long run, I crave to be a part of things, even though it took me years – literally years – to get up the guts to even say so. Pushing the boundaries of my own creativity also keeps me honest about what I expect from students. In 6 weeks I will be shuffling 13 intrepid fellow travelers to Taos, New Mexico to learn the art of traveling with an active sketchbook. I will be asking them to draw. A lot. This is terrifying for many people. Similar to my fear of playing music where anyone can hear me, putting an artful line on paper stimulates a fear of failure so strong that most people will not do it. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard “I can’t draw” from someone who hears what I do for a living. It is my belief that if you can write your name, then you can draw. But unless I understand this fear, I cannot help students to overcome it. And so I push and I risk in order to move beyond the pounding heart and adrenalin headache that comes with stage fright.
Writer Peter Levitt writes:
“We are not only born to create, we are also born to risk. These are actually the same. Taking a creative risk is not only essential and freeing, it is also the least risky thing you can do. Any attempt to stay safe will never get you where you want to go.”
you may have noticed a lull in my blog posts. The reason is, I got a job!!! I am now a proud member of the concertina making team at Carroll Concertinas. I am slowly learning the many different steps involved in building one of these amazing instruments. The tasks are endless and require lots of interesting materials, tools and processes. It is the perfect job for me. I am able to work with my hands on a variety of things. There is no pressure to be in a hurry in any way because quality and safety are the top priorities. Every day involves problem solving and design challenges and the utilization of multiple hand and power tools. In a word, it’s bliss. I have had many folks ask ‘what is a concertina?’. Basically it is like an accordion, sometimes you see pirates playing them in movies. Here is a pro jamming out some reels. Her name is Edel Fox and we will be building a Carroll Concertina for her very soon….
And so that is the news from Chez Bogard. As I come to balance with the new job hours, I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how the Mammoth Cave quilt is coming along and keep y’all up to date on Taos trip news as that draws ever closer.