Learning

steve-at-kmww-08
Steve at Bardstown KY, January 2008

In my career as a musician I sometimes give concerts and other performances, and teach workshops at dulcimer festivals. See my musician website, www.sksmithmusic.com for more details, if you’re interested.

At dulcimer/folk music festivals I often take workshops as a student as well, which sometimes seems to surprise some of the other attendees. Occasionally it surprises the workshop leaders as well.

I’ve always found that odd.

Apparently, once I reach the point where festival organizers will hire me to teach workshops, I’m not expected to need to learn anything further. This is an attitude that I find hard to understand.

Last August, I taught at the Fort New Salem Dulcimer Festival, at Salem WV. My good friend and mentor, Jerry Rockwell, taught there too, and I attended one of his workshops during the course of the weekend. At least one of the other attendees seemed to be surprised by this, I don’t know why. Of course, Jerry is an overflowing wellspring of knowledge about the mountain dulcimer, and music in general, but I have often taken workshops from other players, if I found the subject interesting, regardless of the skill level the workshop is pitched toward.

Last June, at the Kentucky Music Week festival in Bardstown KY, I took a workshop in Cajun music that was geared toward intermediate players, and a couple of workshops on improvising pitched to advanced players. My store of knowledge increased in each case. I try to take the attitude that everyone has something to learn, and everyone has something to teach, as well.

When I play at the Ohio Renaissance Festival, doing the “wandering minstrel” thing in the lanes around the grounds of the fair, I will often have people ask me some variation of, “How long did it take you to learn to play that?”

My standard answer is, “I don’t know. I haven’t finished yet.”

This is what I think is the core of my personal philosophy. There’s always something more to learn, whether about music, writing, gardening, or astrophysics. I hope never to stop learning, and that one of my very last thoughts, just before I die, is, “Not yet! There’s still more I need to know!”

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