My first French music jam: anxious but excited

Tonight I participated for the first time in a new local French traditional dance music jam session that is getting off the ground, organized by Lisa. I was really excited about the formation of our group.

How did this come about?

Inspired by Gregory

What happened was that after Gregory left us this summer, I told Lisa that I really wanted to do the kind of thing Gregory had been doing, playing French music for dancers. Lisa was excited about this and thought it would be cool for herself to start playing fiddle again. She found some other people who were interested in playing French music together, and so we met up!


Tonight, I played both my Baroque flute and my modern flute. I didn’t really want to play the modern flute, but there were times when we played some music in keys I wasn’t comfortable with on Baroque flute. Meanwhile, it will take a long time for the Irish flute I ordered to be made and shipped. I really want to use the louder Irish flute when feasible.

Lisa had her fiddle, and someone else also had a fiddle.

A guy brought his melodeon (button accordion), which unfortunately is limited in the keys it can play in. He sometimes used the old upright piano also. There was someone else who also used the piano.

And there was someone on clarinet.

How it went

I was quite nervous, because much of what we did was not from printed scores, but from people’s memories of their favorite tunes. I in fact ended up using my phone to send Lisa a PDF of Gregory’s French music score compilation so that she could print it out for some of us!

I quickly noticed that my Baroque flute was being drowned out by the other instruments. So I pulled out my modern flute sometimes in order to be heard more.

We went on for quite some time as the dancers arrived and became restless, and then we played for them for about an hour. Actually, I was heard better then, because Lisa and some other musicians gave introductory lessons or themselves wanted to dance. The result was that after a while, it was just Donna on fiddle, John on melodeon, and me on Baroque flute playing for the dancers.

It’s really a joy playing music for people to dance to. I feel like I’m starting to fulfill my dream that I dared to mention in March: that of being the musician rather than the dancer at a dance. During his time here in Pittsburgh, I was really inspired by the example of Gregory (who has finished his stay in the country and gone back to Europe) to start learning tunes by ear, ornamenting, and improvising. I’m still quite a beginner at this approach to music, but this is what I’ve always wanted to do.


The first French music jam and new format for the French dance (live music instead of iTunes) was a great start of something new. We were all so excited that we definitely want to continue doing this. I look forward to continuing to play together.

(Update of 2012-08-27)

And less than two months later, I am still involved in the new French music jam, and finally with my own Irish flute!

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