French music jam with unexpected new musicians

Tonight was my fourth participation in Lisa’s French traditional dance music jam.

The evening started quietly, because only Lisa and John and I were present at first, and nobody else. Apparently people were either in classes or had other engagements.

We always love having more people join us in making music, so it was great that unexpectedly, we got two people into playing with us before I had to leave after two hours! So where did they come from?

Three of us

When it was just the three of us, Lisa and John played over some new tunes they had worked on earlier, so that I could pick them up. I’m much better now at learning music by ear. I’m still not very fast at picking up tunes, but I’m definitely better. Furthermore, although they had scribbled down some scores on paper to keep track of the different new songs, I found the handwritten attempts sufficiently difficult to decipher that I chose to completely ignore them. This is a new attitude for me: in the past, I would have scrambled to get a written score if possible. Now, I’ve grown used to doing without, and not worrying about making mistakes or learning more slowly than if I had a score. It took me five months to reach this point of relative comfort with uncertainty, confusion, and imperfection, ha!


Very few dancers showed up at all during the evening. As a result, the ones that did show up expecting to dance started watching us continue to play music instead. But then John started saying, “Hey, grab an instrument and join us!”

Someone I hadn’t met before, Georgia, had started learning some chords on mandolin recently, and she got sucked into joining us as John handed her his mandolin.

Later, Leslie arrived. She regularly attends to dance. Since there were hardly any dancers around, we said, hey, want to play? John pointed to two banjo cases he had on the floor, so she went and tried one banjo and then switched to the other, and the next thing we knew, we were all playing together.

Georgia and Leslie do play other musical instruments and sing, but they just happen not to “really” play mandolin or banjo. I thought it was pretty cool that the unfortunate lack of dancers led to their unexpectedly joining us as musicians. I guess we’ll see whether they start playing more with us!


The small number of musicians and dancers might have made the evening less interesting than past sessions, but it was great that we spontaneously added to our musical group for the evening.

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