Thursday, February 28, 2013

First Clayville Pioneer Academy of Music tune learning session Saturday March 2

Blast email sent out late this afternoon -

Hi everybody -

Our first Clayville Pioneer Academy of Music tune-learning jam session in the barn at Clayville Historic Site is coming up Saturday morning. We'll begin with tips for rank beginners at 9:30 a.m., and the session will run from 10 till noon. It'll be a little different from the dulcimer lessons for beginners in January and February - we want to spend more time learning tunes, and we're inviting people who play other instruments to take part - but we're mostly mountain dulcimer players, and we'll be using mountain dulcimer tablature. We'll be building on the dulcimer lessons, and we will continue to be supportive and beginner-friendly. Beverley Buck, who has been doing a lot of the teaching in our beginners' lessons, and I will moderate. We really liked the way the lessons went, and we want our tune learning sessions to have the same friendly, non-competitive, encouraging atmosphere.

We're calling them jam sessions, for lack of a better word, and we'll follow the same rules we've seen at mountain dulcimer jam sessions. We'll go around the circle, and each of us will choose a tune we'd like to have the group play. But most of us are beginners, and we'll concentrate on learning tunes. Bev and I will bring in some favorites from other dulcimer jams, especially tunes with dulcimer tablature available on line. But we're not going to play fast, and we're not going to use the sessions to show off dazzling technique. (I don't have any technique to show off anyway!) So ours won't be like other jam sessions you may have heard about.

Our emphasis will be on teaching and learning. That's one reason we're calling it the Clayville Pioneer Academy of Music. Besides, we think it just *sounds* like Clayville!

Out in Denver, a group called the Small Circle Tune Learning Session has a pretty good discussion of its goals. I've been studying them, and I think they're a good set of goals for us as we launch the Clayville sessions. As we go along, we'll develop our own goals and objectives. So be thinking about where you want our group to go as we learn more. But for now, the Denver group's goals will do for starters:

"SCTLS isn't actually a real [jam] session. We're a tune learning session, and we will teach you tunes, teach how to learn tunes and how to teach tunes, and we will teach you about sessions: what to expect at your local session, and at sessions around the world. We fully expect and want each musician to "graduate" from SCTLS and get out to actual sessions as soon as they're ready...sometimes this is before they feel ready, we know!"
And SCTLS adds this:
"We hope that you'll find we're one of Colorado's most friendly sessions. One of the things that makes the SCTLS unique is that we want you to be free to make mistakes, feel your way through some of the stranger bits of session etiquette, and get comfortable with playing your instrument in public, without feeling ostracized if you inadvertently commit a faux pas or some such. Feel free to ask questions or try something new."
OK, we'll want to change "Colorado" to "Illinois!" But the rest of is important. You can read more on the SCTLS website at:

(A couple of words of translation: SCTLS is a traditional Irish group, so they say "session" where mountain dulcimer players say "jam session" or "jam." What we do will be more like what they sometimes call a "tune learning circle," and the music won't be all Irish, although we do really enjoy a lot Celtic tunes. At least for starters, we'll focus on tunes you're likely to hear at other jams in downstate Illinois and historic sites like Clayville. One last translation - "craic" is pronounced "crack" and it *doesn't* mean what you'd think it does when you hear us talk about it! It's a Scots and Irish term for good conversation, fellowship and the kind of fun you have playing music with a group of people.)

So ... we really liked the enthusisam you all showed at the beginners' lessons in January and February, and we hope to see you at our first Clayville Pioneer Academy of Music tune-learning jam!

Be ready to request one of the tunes we learned in January or February when we go around the circle. If you have other songs to suggest, please let us know and we'll see if we can find free tablature on line that we can send around before the next Clayville academy jam and tune learning session in April. Here are links to three new songs - new to our group at Clayville, that is - which we'll introduce Saturday. They're all available on line in the tab directory at

-- Gray Cat on a Tennessee Farm - scroll down to "Gray Cat on a Tennessee Farm" by Lee Cagle or click on

-- Old Joe Clark - scroll down to "Old Joe Clark 1" by Sr. Margaret Mary or click on

-- Farther Along - scroll down to "Farther Along" by Steve Smith or click on

Since Smith gives tab for both DAA and DAD versions of "Farther Along," you may want to take a yellow highlighter and mark the melody in DAD (notice that you'll play the B in the next to last measure of lines 1 and 2 on the middle string). There's a lot more information on his tab than you need to learn the tune as a beginner, but later on it will help you learn to read standard notation and know your way around the dulcimer in both D tunings. For now, you can't go wrong if you just play the melody. ...

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