Author: Zuniga, Nancy

Location, location, location

It's an immutable law of fate that everything that happens to us in life affects everything else that happens to us. Seemingly unrelated events have repercussions that may profoundly affect our lives far down the road. For example, many years ago, I began my college education at an art school where I was roundly discouraged by my professors. (One of them advised me that I would have “a hard row to hoe” if I pursued a career in Fine Arts.) I decided to transfer to the University of California for my junior year. My first choice of campus was U.C. Berkeley, second choice U.C. Santa Cruz, and third choice U.C. Santa Barbara. I submitted my application too late to get either of my first two choices, so I was sent to Santa Barbara where I met my friend Terri, and it was through Terri that I met my husband Henry some 32 years later. The rest, as they say, is history. In other words, I would never have met my husband in 2002 had I not been sent to my 3rd choice of college campus in 1970 (and I wouldn't have transferred in the first place if I'd had greater artistic talent, or more encouraging professors).

Twists of fate determine not only who (or “if”) we end up marrying, but all other aspects of our lives as well, including the place we call home. And the place we call home will definitely influence our opportunities for hearing and playing music. When I moved to Auburn in 1986, I was confronted by flyers posted in store windows advertising the Midsummer Bluegrass Festival and the CBA's Fathers Day Festival. I decided to check out those festivals, as they were located just 35 minutes from my home. Although I had enjoyed bluegrass music on the rare occasions when I heard it on TV shows or movie soundtracks, I wonder if I would ever have discovered the wonderful community associated with bluegrass had I not happened to move close to Grass Valley, a move that was precipitated by life events totally unrelated to music. Almost certainly, I would not be writing a monthly column for the CBA web site today if I hadn't made that move to northern California 24 years ago!

We've heard of rural communities in Arkansas and Tennessee where jamming in the town square or in front of the general store is a weekly or even daily occurrence. If it were one's fate to live in one of those towns, there would be little need to consciously create or seek out opportunities to jam; it would simply come with the territory. Most of us remember the “Dueling Banjos” scene from the movie “Deliverance”; it's inconceivable that the old codger who kicked up his heels to the irresistible sounds of the music had ever enrolled in a clogging class at a local junior college or community center; to someone raised in that environment, his almost involuntary reaction to the banjo-and-guitar duet was as natural as breathing. Bluegrass music is more of an acquired taste for most Californians, and most of us have had to make a conscious effort to seek out opportunities to enjoy it. While living in northern California, I discovered that jamming, concert, and festival opportunities were plentiful in the greater Sacramento area. Six years ago, Henry and I made a decision to move to central California to be closer to Henry's mom who was having some serious health issues at the time. Moving to the mountains of central California was a rude awakening; Henry and I had to take matters into our own hands by starting up a jam in our rural community, and jam attendance waned as the price of gas rose and the novelty of the jams wore off. While Fresno County is not without a bluegrass scene, we definitely don't enjoy the abundance of musical opportunities that we had nearly taken for granted when we lived in the northern part of the state.

Reading the “hooked on bluegrass” stories, it becomes apparent that some CBA members are born into families or locales where bluegrass music is an integral part of their heritage, while others stumble onto the music as adults through a variety of avenues. Lineage and birthplace are beyond one's control, but where one chooses to live later in life can be influenced by multiple factors including proximity to jobs, school, or relatives. I wonder how many people consciously consider the availability of bluegrass music when deciding where to hang their hat. Thankfully, my mother-in-law's health has improved to the extent that it no longer seems imperative that Henry and I remain in central California, and we hope to sell our house and move in the near future. Of course, there are numerous considerations in determining where we will land. The job market, local amenities, and convenience of location are all factors. But proximity to our fellow bluegrass pickers will certainly be a big part of the equation.

It's interesting to reflect from time to time on how the important aspects of our lives would be greatly altered had we or our ancestors done one little thing differently. Where we live certainly is one of the most crucial aspects in determining the extent to which we can hear or play bluegrass music and spend treasured time with our bluegrass family. It puts a new slant on the old mantra: “Location, location, location”!

Posted:  6/3/2010

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email