Petrified at a music jam session so I didn't play but watched and listened

Just yesterday, I went to a music jam and was anxious but got over that and participated.

Today Abby and I went to a very different one, a potluck/music jam hosted by Susan Waggoner, whom we’ve known for a long time through various Pittsburgh music and dance activities. Susan is involved particularly in the Cajun music/dance scene, and was also in the Accordion Pool Party that Abby played in three years ago, and also has been doing French dancing with us.

I was so terrified at this party that I didn’t play at all, despite bringing my instruments. I just didn’t feel up to it. But I learned a lot.

Two main groups of musicians

It turned out that there were a bunch of musicians playing music outside in the back of the home. I wasn’t super familiar with what they were playing. Then there were some musicians playing music inside in the living room.

They really knew what they were doing, and were singing and playing by ear, no scores in sight. Without any scores, I had no clue how I could contribute, so I didn’t even take out my instruments. This was real jamming, not the kind that I did yesterday where most (but not all) of the stuff we did involved songs I had brought scores for or at least had heard before.

Old time music

I was told by the men and women who were inside that those outside were playing “old time” music. I hadn’t been familiar with the term or genre.

Abby liked being outside, and also has been playing mandolin, so spent time checking out that group. I think she played along some too. It seemed to be mostly fiddlers, with banjo, mandolin, percussion, etc.

I checked it out, but the music happened not to be quite so interesting to me; it moved fast, had a lot of notes, but seemed somewhat monotonous to my taste.

Country blues music

Inside, however, I was really captivated by what was going on. They said that they were playing “country blues”. I liked the harmonic changes and the rhythmic qualities and improvisation. Guitars, harmonica, piano, singing. I was impressed by how the singers made up entire lyrics on the spot, often very funny or off-color.

I stayed around inside soaking in what was going on, and thought, I could see myself someday playing along.


I was really excited to meet more musicians and widen my musical experience at the potluck/jam session. I felt pretty inspired by what I saw going on, music as a really communal, creative experience.

Noticing the huge gap between what these musicians were able to do and what I am able to do, I know that it takes a long time to get where they are, but I want to have that kind of everyday facility.

(Update of 2012-07-07)

Four days later, we went to another potluck/jam session, and I played a little bit.

(Update of 2013-01-28)

Seven months later, I participated in my first blues jam. The pianist there, Anders, was the same one I first saw here.

(Update of 2013-07-03)

At my second year of this annual party, I still did not feel comfortable enough with the crowd to try to participate musically.

(Update of 2014-07-03)

At my third year of this annual party, I actually played both piano and ukulele!

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