"He's a music man, and he sells clarinets to the kids in the town..."
- from Meredith Wilson's The Music Man
After delivering my son to school, I was walking back with a neighbor, and we were talking about the school's music program. My son is taking up the trumpet this year. Her son had been in a summer program and marvelled at the band director there taking a random assortment of instruments with their players and making passable background music with them.
I pointed out that in pre-phonograph, pre-radio days, people would get together to play music, and it is from this tradition that much folk and popular music sprung. I pointed out the example of The Music Man
, with a huckster selling instruments to a small Iowa town (as I remember the details).
Quite simply, instruments, whether the piano in the parlor, or the bass drum, or the trumpet, were treasured, used and shared liberally. If you lived in a small town, perhaps three or four people would get together on Saturday evening to play. Sometimes, they'd even play at a town dance or in a parade. It was how skills were honed and learned.
I have a friend from college who plays jazz. He'll show up at a club and "play in" with the band. If you're lousy, you'll last a song; if good, you'll go the rest of the night. The tradition continues in this form.
Labels: life, music