Nothing says fun and excitement like rearranging your bedroom/office/music room when they are all the same room because you can’t afford a house big enough to have those rooms separated without sacrificing the kitchen, dining and second music room in the process. By a strange coincidence nothing really grinds my gears like thinking about how I can’t afford a house with those rooms as a consequence of spending all those dollar bills I blew thinking I was buying a winning lottery ticket. Bummer.
But anyhooglbees, rearranging, cleaning, and going through an abundance of old stuff has been fantabulous. I am truly impressed by my ability to throw material possessions away that I should have some sentimental attachment to, yet keep the most useless 99 cent trinkets that were given as gifts from my friends that either don’t feel I’m worthy of gifts valued above that one cent below one dollar threshold or they don’t have any money as a result of spending their money on lottery tickets and have been scraping by on that one time they actually got ten to fifteen dollars back as a result of playing. But again I digress.
Very soon, one very lucky Goodwill store in Tallahassee will be the lucky recipient of my useless trinkets that are sure to make great gifts and re-gifts for years to come before eventually ending up on the shelves of Goodwill once again upon the realization that the item(s) are a complete waste of space with no real function except to maybe pass along the opportunity to some thrifty Sunday morning shopper always on the prowl for a good deal.
Of the many items that I was quick to categorize as useless waste of space one of them earned a spot on my new bookshelf as it just seemed to look right there. That is the first place trophy I earned in Mt. View, Arkansas for winning the regional dulcimer competition there in 2005… my last dulcimer contest. After seeing the pleasant way it caught the light and really brought out the color of everyone’s face in the family photo residing next to it I decided to search for some more of my old shiny objects that serve no real purpose other than unnecessarily inflating my ego and bringing out the shiny color of my family’s face. It wasn’t long before I realized I had, in a spell of under sentimentality, thrown them all out. Ribbon from winning the state competition, trophies from sitting in with various groups in ensemble competitions when I was in high school and traveling to folk festivals. Even a nice engraved plaque from making the top five at nationals that looked more like a kid’s sectioned plate than it did something you’d win at a competition for playing dulcimer. The thought of that one brings back memories. I had been playing about 2 or 3 years at the time and was still terrified of being onstage and with good reason. People stare at you.
I realized the only reason this one trophy had survived was because my mom, being the mom she is, demanded I not throw it out as I said I would and instead let her add it to her small pile of Aaron O’Rourke memorabilia. So in that sense, this trophy just got lucky.
After reflecting a bit on what really prompted me to toss the small collection of awards I’ve received in the garbage I think I realized that while I was excited about winning (and how could I not be? With a free dulcimer and cash involved it was pretty sweet!) it’s the kind of excitement that is over and done with… real quick.
For one thing I feel like what I played at these competitions were arrangements that were good specifically for where I was at musically at that time and that just happened to coincide with what a decent contest arrangement would be. I feel like I have better technique now, maybe even more visually impressive. I feel like I pull better tone than I did then. And having said all that I don’t think I could possibly be any further away from playing “contest” arrangements of tunes.
The thing is, music is not a competition. Instrumental competitions are however, and they do tend to involve people making sound on their instrument in an organized and impressive way. The organized sound part means that yes…music is somehow involved… but it’s not necessarily the competition.
So now here’s the meat of what I’m getting at. I never liked competitions even though I participated. Many times I was giving into peer pressure. No big deal. I’ve done stuff way more shameful because of peer pressure that wouldn’t be appropriate to write for an all ages fan base (just joshing. I was always a pretty good kid). But now I feel like some part of me misses that terrified feeling of knowing I’m going to be judged and possibly told that I’m not as pleasing to listen to as someone else. There might even be a few in the audience that despite my child-like, innocent face will still be praying to whoever may be at the top of the food chain in whatever monotheistic religion they happen to be a part of, for me to screw up. But that ain’t going to happen. I’m going out to Winfield this September for the national dulcimer competition and if I don’t win it won’t be because I screwed up. No. It will be because I’m feeling a little rusty at contest playing and I’m probably just real crappy. No biggie.