Author: Campbell, Bruce

It's Share Time!

When you find something that really makes you happy, that really turns your life around and feel very rewarding, you want to share that with people. This tendency is literally built into every evangelical faith – if you’ve seen the light, wouldn’t you want to spread that light?

But evangelical fervor lends itself to pretty much anything that floats your boat. If you find a restaurant that serves terrific food, you can’t wait to share your discovery with friends. If you read a book you find compelling, you eagerly pass it along to a friend, and then your little secret will be shared by an exclusive fraternity. And so it goes with everything – radio stations, auto repair shops, tailors, hairdressers, reality TV shows – anything.

Why do we do this? One reason is a truly altruistic desire to share the joy we find in these things with the people we care about, and people whose opinions we care about. On another level, sharing our little discoveries helps us relive that moment we first encountered these things that bring us joy. You only get to see something for the first time once, after all. But being there when someone else gets that epiphany gives us a chance to tap into that delicious feeling.

It doesn’t always work, of course. How many times have you enthusiastically recommended a movie to someone only to have them report back that they didn’t like it? I love reading, but I often dread it when friends hand me a book they like – my tastes don’t always mesh with even my closest friends, and I hate telling them that I found their beloved book boring, implausible or clumsily plotted. (And I do tell them!)

Bluegrass is one of those things, for sure. It’s kind of a well kept secret – there are thousands and thousands of bluegrass fans but as often as not, when you tell someone you’re into bluegrass, what do they say? “Oh, yeah, I like blues!” is a pretty common reaction. More often it’s a just a puzzled stare. “Bluegrass? You mean, like country or something?”. So you fall back on the standard explanations: “You remember the Beverly Hillbillies? Or Bonnie and Clyde? Or Deliverance?” Embarrassing hackneyed cultural references, but they generally evoke a glimmer of recognition. And that glimmer is not very compelling. How could it be?

No, the trick is to get your friends to see bluegrass in its native state. You bring them to a concert, or better yet, a bluegrass festival, where the whole bluegrass social culture is apparent. That’s where you can win converts. This works especially well if your novice friends are musicians, or avid fans of music in general. You don’t have to know bluegrass, or even like it, to appreciate the amazing musicianship on display at a concert or festival. And it’s hard not to be moved and charmed watching the jammers (especially the kids!) at a festival.

My oldest pal, Ken, whom I’ve known since I was about 6, is a fine musician. We played for many years in rock bands, until work and family obligations put our budding musical careers on ice. We live about 100 miles apart, but we still play together regularly, and about 15 years ago, we formed the first bluegrass band I ever played with. Over times, our paths diverged somewhat – I dove into the bluegrass scene with both feet, but he hasn’t really caught the bug. He’s talented enough to contribute fine guitar work and singing to the band we started so long ago (and we still have some gigs every year), but he’s unlikely to play a bluegrass CD in his truck. Like my kids, his kids have become avid musicians, and herein lies the chink in his armor which I am prepared to exploit this year. His youngest son Ethan (who was born on my 41st birthday) has taken up fiddle, and he asked about kids’ programs at Grass Valley.

Hoo boy! The trap is baited and ready to be sprung! I am encouraging him VERY VERY strongly (as strongly as I dare) to make the journey to Grass Valley for this year’s festival. It’s a win-win, as I see it. His son will get the encouraging influence of being around other young pickers and get to play in an ensemble setting and hone his chops. And Ken can meet all my bluegrass pals and participate in some killer jams. I know he’s a little nervous he won’t be able to keep up, but you know what? I worry about that myself every year, and it always works out. After all, what’s the worse-case scenario? If you can’t get the tune you just don’t play?

And Ken and Ethan will get to meet the nicest folks around, and hear the very best bluegrass music, under the beautiful Nevada County pines. Can you help me convince him that this is the very best use of his Father’s Day weekend? Please, put some messages on the Message Board, “Why Ken should bring Ethan to the Father’s Day Festival this year”. I will pass these messages onto him and seal the deal. He’s a great guy, and his son is a great kid – you’ll like ;em both, I guarantee!

Posted:  2/24/2010

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