Music At Mary’s

I read the article on Making Jam and thought I’d share what a friend of mine started last year…

I have a good friend Mary – we both grew up in Hawaii. Mary loves singing, but does not play any instruments strongly. She has made several friends who do play instruments (in the Baltimore area), through contra dancing and folk music. She called me up with this idea -to e-mail everyone she knows who is the least bit musically inclined, and have a “pot luck jam session”. Everyone will bring food to her house, and their instruments and music, and we’d see what we could do! Mary provides name tags and beverages.

(I think this all started out with her yearly Christmas caroling in the neighborhood)

Most of the first session revolved around a book called Rise Up Singing – with chords and lyrics, but no melody lines. We have been working on setting up binders of music with chords, lyrics, and melody lines. The idea is that the food is in one room of her house, and the instruments are in another. People come, set up, and talk and eat. Then we get down to music – a LOT! We have a variety of instruments -3 hammered dulcimers, a fiddle, a cello, a clarinet, 3-5 guitars, 2 recorders, an alto recorder, something that sounds like a kazoo/recorder, a bodhran, bells, large African drums of some sort, a piano (not played much), a penny whistle, but some of these are played by the same person, and some people just bring their voice! Of course, not everyone comes all the time, so there is a variety of instruments each time, and people come and go from early to late evening. Also, sometimes people play for a while, drop out for a snack, then drop back in (after washing their hands!).

This is an amazing experience that everyone should at least try. We learn so much from each other. People take turns finding songs to do, and it is up to you if you join in or not. Sometimes we find a song in more than one source, and we need to change the key, based on our melody instruments or singing abilities. We have people of all abilities, from barely able to play to professionals. I play guitar, recorder, penny whistle, and bodhran, but none extremely well – however, I have definitely expanded my abilities – speed, reading and learning chord-only music, and techniques, as well as new chords. My husband went from struggling to join in on his hammered dulcimer to picking up the melodies quickly, playing around the melodies, and learning and playing chords much better than before. It is never perfect (the time I left my newly-purchased music stands at home, the time I arrived late because I had just spent three hours choosing a new guitar – my first electric-acoustic – a Yamaha CPX series – drool!) but it is always FUN!!! Now we need a bigger place… and we don’t get to meet as often as we’d like, as the local area dance schedule conflicts – but we are trying the 3rd Saturday of the month…

About the author:

Lee Budar-Danoff has also written: Another Approach and Looking And Listening.