Thursday, October 26, 2017

And the Band Played On

I have now been to several band rehearsals, as they call the classes. I am also continuing to take lessons from Alex Pena. We have increased the time of each lesson from forty five minutes to an hour at Alex’s suggestion.

The band rehearsal is not for the feint of heart nor someone not skilled in at least the rudiments of Music. Without the weekly lesson, I would not be able to accomplish anything in the band class. As it is I’m hard pressed to keep up and really don’t. Alex is really a great teacher, not just for the violin, but for music in general. I am learning a lot from him; if I can only remember it.

My task now is to decide how far I want to go with this band thing. Some of the ladies I talk to at the class say they have been in Beginning Strings since 2001. That’s 16 years! I don’t think I can do that or even want to. So, what exactly do I want to do with my hopefully, soon to be learned violin skills? Or, for that matter, what do I want to do with my dulcimer playing skills, such as they are. What genres of music do I want to concentrate on? The pieces that we are working on in band are fine, but difficult for me now. They are: Dance of the Tumblers, El Toro and Shoe Symphony. If I don’t play with the band, what outlet will I have for music. Perhaps I should look into Fiddlers of the Genesee.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Music goes On & On

The music goes on and on, but the blogging sure takes a lot of rests. Dulcimer classes are finished until Fall. Our class in History of Western Music is finished. It was more work than Anne and I thought it would be, but it was worth it. We both feel that we learned a lot and want to keep learning.

Never content to leave well enough alone, I decided to sign up for the New Horizons Band beginning strings group. They call it the "Green Band." The New Horizons Band is a concept that originated here in Rochester and is primarily for older players who would like to participate, even if they don't know how to play. This is play the violin, which, of course, I don't know how to play. So, I also signed up for private lessons at Eastman with an instructor, Alex Pena. I have been taking lessons (6 so far) to get ready to meet the band in September. I will take four more lessons over the summer and then at least seventeen weeks more in the fall. This is in addition to continuing with the hammered dulcimer. Maybe I need medication. Anyway, I wanted to get something down for the record so I will know how all of this started.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Time Sure Flies

Here it is almost the middle of January. My last post was about playing with our class at St. John's home. Since then we played at the Eastman School of Music for their annual Christmas Festival. The pictures were taken with my iPod and are not perfect, but they convey the general atmosphere.

The lady with her back to the camera is Mitzie Collins, our instructor. In the bottom picture, Anne is directly to her left.

Our Eastman School lessons begin again next Tuesday. In the meantime, we have had one private lesson with Linda Taggart, who is a local dulcimer player and teacher along with being a Lutheran minister. She is a busy lady.

For our upcoming class sessions I am working on Red Wing, The Rakes of Mallow, The Road to Lisdoonvarna and Soldier's Joy. That's a lot, for me anyway. We went to the Y today to renew our membership. It's free this year with our new health insurance company, Aetna. We were also asked to be sacristans at our church and we're planning a lunch on Friday with our sailing friends.

Back to music for a minute. Linda had mentioned a program for putting all of our sheet music on an iPad. It's called Unreal Book. I have scanned some music onto it by using the iPad's camera. I don't know just how handy this will be. I can certainly see the value of not having a lot of heavy binders to carry around, but, of course, the music on the iPad is smaller than on an actual sheet. You can adjust the size, but then you don't get the whole piece in view. Linda mentioned another program called Musescore with seems to do the same thing. I guess as we progress, I'll have to see how this all works. She also said that we probably wouldn't be happy for long with the 12/11 dulcimer. We did buy that one as an "interim" instrument, so, again, we will have to wait to see what develops.

So my message to anyone who is thinking of retiring is to keep on working. Working is not as much fun, but you'll have more time.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Dulcimer Bill?

Now what am I going to do. Anne and I have gotten through ten weeks of hammered dulcimer lessons, so now what should my music blog be called? Barrister Bill, the Dulcimer Man? Doesn't sound right and, anyway, before one should call oneself a "dulcimer man" one should be able to play competently, I think. Oh, the argument could be made that the fact of competency didn't prevent me from calling myself "the Banjo Man," but that at least rhymes.

We played at St. John's Home in Rochester as our first concert (or show and tell) as our instructor, Mitzie Collins, likes to call it. We were told that playing "out" is different, and it is, even if the audience was mostly in wheel chairs and in a number of cases, not in the same dimension. But, they seemed to enjoy the music and, as we were also told, that at least we now have our first performance out of the way. Well, maybe so, but our next "show and tell" is at the Eastman School of Music and the audience there will be very much in the same dimension.

Anne got "her" dulcimer on November 18th. A Songbird Phoebe Chromatic 17/16/8. A week or so before, we bought a Master Works 12/11 dulcimer as an interim dulcimer until we decided what I would get and "the grandchildren can use it when they come." But, now the smaller one is being referred to as "my" (meaning Bill's) dulcimer. I knew this would happen and I even predicted it. We'll have to wait to see what happens and if I ever get a "grown up" dulcimer.

I have now learned several songs on the hammered dulcimer. I can't play them perfectly every time, but I can get through them. They are:

Michael Row the Boat Ashore
Silent Night
Tallis Canon
Joy to the World
Scarborough Fair
Amazing Grace
Away in a Manger

I have to learn how to add embellishments to the basic melody. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 10, 2014


The year is now 2014 and according to Blogger Dashboard, I haven't posted to this blog since April 2011. That is simply ridiculous. I mean the date is right, what's ridiculous is that I haven't posted since then. I have to laugh, or cry, because the last post laments the fact of a lack of playing of my banjo. I am still having the same ailment and I really want to change that. I'm not worried about weight anymore. On my last visit to the doctor he said that I had lost a few pounds. That's nice and I think I have that under better control, although I always feel I could lose just a pound or two more. But playing my banjo isn't under control. Maybe I should stop wringing my hands and moaning about it and just play the thing. I wonder why I don't do that. I'll let you know if I figure out why.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Progress in Retirement

I did change the name of my blog since I am now retired and don't feel much like a barrister anymore. That's a good thing. Tha bad thing is that I can't point to any great progress in the area of banjo playing. I have been somewhat preoccupied with other matters, but is that a good enough excuse? Probably not. Nor is being preoccupied with other things an excuse for not losing the weight that I keep promising myself I will lose.

I do love music and I love to listen to acoustic string instruments in particular. I have been playing, but I am writing this post to beat myself up in the hope that I will read it and get more passionate about the whole thing [see prior post].

By the way, I discovered "Stats" on this blog which tracks how many people read each post and where they're from. It appears that I have an international following, although they seem to be people from the same countries that follow my other blog and two that my spouse has running. Interesting.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Progress and Passion

Since we last spoke I have added at least one more number to my vast list of songs. That is Old Dan Tucker. I am also working on Spanish Fandango and The Wreck of the Old '97. I know, that's not a whole lot, which brings me to the question of passion. I have been re-reading Stephen King's On Reading in preparation of my assignment by my daughter and granddaughter to write a novel during the month of November. Mr. King says that he writes 2000 words a day. He recommends that new writers try for 1000 per day. If I am to write 50,000 words during a month with 30 days, that's 1666 words a day. However, I will be missing for at least five of those days, so that leaves 25 days. 50,000 divided by 25 is 2000 words per day. That is roughly ten pages a day, seven days a week for the time that I have. Writing that much will probably take at least several hours, I am guessing, if I think of something to write; a considerable commitment.

Mr. King also says that to be a writer, you must be passionate about it. He means that you must be serious about the business of writing and get yourself down to it, no fooling around. I think he is quite correct, and if you are passionate, the getting down to it part won't seem like work. That is true with writing just as it is true with playing a musical instrument or doing anything else in life. Everyone doesn't have to be a writer or a musician. Thank God. There are already enough lousy ones of each out there.

I think that I am not very different than many other people who aspire to write or to play a musical instrument. I like to do both, but there is a certain lack of passion and my commitment to each is spotty. Whenever I read about a good writer or a good musician, or a good whatever, the common thread is that they practice their craft all the time. Patrick Costello ( is the person who has had the most influence on my banjo playing. He is an excellent folk musician who expresses himself with a banjo or guitar. His banjo playing is suburb, but he has practiced his craft for 25 years or more, passionately. He tells of the hours he walked up and down his driveway practicing the frailing strum. He has a real love for what he does and he had the passion to spend the hours and hours that it took to get him where he is today. Stephen King has a passion for writing. He likes what he does. But where does this passion come from? What do you do if you don't have the passion to practice for hours at a time, or to write for hours at a time?

So far, I can play the banjo for a half hour at a time and be somewhat content. I know that if I play more, I will make more progress. I would like to get to the point where I am more familiar with the fingerboard and have all of the chords, movable and otherwise, mastered. I guess I had better stop writing and get playing. I don't know about those 2000 words of writing every day for a month. I may have to accept that I may not achieve my goal of becoming a world famous author of best selling novels. I believe that all of this came about because I just got a call from our piano tuner to make an appointment to tune ours. Mamma Mia, another musical instrument being neglected by the resident players!