Tip Jar Jam #47: Paddle Faster……I Hear Banjos!

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

I'm late in writing this because Thursday morning, the day after the jam, I totally ran out of steam. I was like a flat tire. I had no energy left to do anything. Fortunately, everything on my "to do" list could wait, so I let it wait, while I spent the day curled up on the couch sleeping and watching TV! I had recently started watching the extended DVD version of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, watching the first two discs of the movie then going back through them again while listening to Peter Jackson's director's commentary. (I was trying to get some tips for how to do my own DVD commentary for our new performance DVD.) So yesterday, in my energyless funk, I watched the rest of the movie (four discs) and followed that up with Thursday night football! (The Redskins lost.)

Today, while eating my oatmeal in front of the TV, I started listening to the commentary on disc three, and and, unbelievable as it may seem, I heard a reference to banjos! In a movie about elves, and orcs, and wizards, and hobbits! And it was not a flattering reference, either. Naturally I wanted to share it with you that I copied down the actual wording.

A tiny bit of set-up: The bad wizard Saruman is gathering together a big army of people and orcs and goblins to fight the good wizard Gandalf and all his friends. In this scene from the movie the Wild Men of the Forest are pledging their allegiance to Saruman. So on the screen you see a big bunch of men with long scraggly beards and bad teeth dressed in ragged clothes and holding torches. Director Peter Jackson is talking about this scene. He says:

"Saruman is gathering the disenfranchised human beings to his cause as well. The rather primitive inbred wild men. You almost imagine to hear banjos playing in this scene."

REALLY? Banjos? In Middle Earth??? What is is about inbreeding that brings banjos to mind? Oh, that would be the movie Deliverance. Sigh.....I wonder if we'll ever get over that one?

But back to the jam.....We had a tight group of five: Kathy Hanson, Kristina, Bob A, Bob Mc, and Frank, a newish student who was attending his second jam. Frank knows all the songs on Volume One and Misfits but he doesn't know them by name! So when I called for I Saw The Light, I had to say, "That's the second song on Misfits." Cripple Creek became "the second song on Volume One." It was pretty funny.

During our lesson on Tuesday Bob A said that he wanted to play at an open mike event that is held in Strasburg, Va., at a cafe called Christina's. He had eaten there recently on open-mike night and he wanted to join in the fun. So together we chose three of his best songs: John Henry, Circle, and Wreck of the Old 97. ("You are not going to do Jimmy Brown The Newsboy," I said.) I had him perform them for me at the lesson (I did not play, just watched) and I told him he could perform one of them at the jam for practice. So Wednesday he played and sang Will The Circle Be Unbroken, in D (capo 2, play out of C position), while the rest of us served as his audience. He kicked it off, sang all four verses, and put a guitar break in between verses. Just him and his guitar! And he never once stopped or tried to restart. I was so proud of him! Such courage! We all applauded loudly at the end.

Bob took his well-earned applause with just the right mixture of pride and "oh, shucks, tweren't nothing." And he did not, thank the good Lord, belabor us with a laundry list of his mistakes, which were extremely minor and of no consequence. No audience wants the praise they are offering besmirched by the performer saying, essentially, "I don't deserve your applause and praise because I made some mistakes." If someone doesn't like your performance, they won't applaud. And they certainly won't come up to you and say, "Good job!" When someone offers praise, your only response should be, "Thank you!" Skip the self-flagellation.

Part of playing on stage is projecting an air of confidence--even if you don't feel it at first. It grows on you! And the more confident you are, the better you will play. And part of being a performer is accepting praise graciously.

And speaking of praise, here's a great big CONGRATULATIONS to our Tip Jar Jam Fashionista Kasey Smelser who was named Student of the Month at Capon Bridge Middle School (in West Virginia). Way to go, Kasey!!! And congrats also to her parents Ben and Tina, who take their parenting seriously.

Next week will be the first anniversary of the Tip Jar Jam! It's hard to believe we've been jamming for an entire year but we have. And it's made a world of difference in the playing of the students. So, a great big THANK YOU to all the students who have so faithfully come to the jam. Thanks for making this work. I think I've learned as much as you all have! And it's been so much fun! See you next week!