March 3, 2023
So last week's newsletter went out without me seeing it ahead of time. That tells you something about the quality of my newsletter editor, Toya. I wrote the "in the shop" segment the week before, and she did the rest without my input.
Because I was teaching and performing at a dulcimer festival in Homosassa, Florida. The "Florida Gulf Coast Dulcimer Retreat" is one of my favorites. It has the same four instructors year-after-year: Bing Futch, Guy George, Sharrie George, and Richard Ash (that's me!). Toss in two, critically important non-instructor spouses (Jae Futch and Aly Ash), and it was the perfect ensemble for staff.
Guy and Sharrie George
This year, the event was held at a large Air BNB/VRBO type place. On a freshwater canal, just off of the Gulf Coast. Several meals were prepared by Chef Bing, including an amazing shrimp/scallop feast. We had classes (of course), jams (of course), and a relaxed, homestyle atmosphere (which is unusual for a festival). About 30 (or so) guests attended and it was very laid-back and fun. I set up my vending area in the garage of the rental house. I kept the garage doors wide open and had blue herons, some kind of giant Florida white birds, and other wildlife checking out the instruments.
My classes were held either on the covered porch, or out on the gazebo in the middle of the backyard. It was snowy and cold back in Indiana, but 80s with a warm breeze in Homosassa.
The Saturday night concert? Held in the living room of the rental house. I picked a spot on one wall, Bing picked a spot, and Guy and Sharrie took another spot. Guests lounged in chairs, ottomans, couches, and on the floor. The living room had space for all and it was fun and intimate. There was an audience member about two feet to my right with a great view of my fretboard. Nearly everyone was within 10 or 15 feet of a performer. No stage, no lights, no emcee, no giant PA system. Just an intimate, relaxed, fun performance.
We took a break part-way through the show for a pizza delivery. Which gave everyone a chance to stretch, feed, and visit a bit. I can't imagine a better environment for a festival concert, that's for sure.
The audience before the show started
Why is this something I'm writing about today (Tuesday, February 28) for inclusion in Friday's newsletter? Because the festival made me remember what's important about making music. The people. I got to really know folks at this festival. There was lots of time to chat and visit. More than at a normal festival, for sure. I got to perform for them in a VERY intimate setting. It wasn't forced, or artificial. It was "playing for friends."
And it was fun! Which is why I started making music so many years ago. And why we all (hopefully) make music today.
Richard and Aly Ash relaxing after the concert
So, go have some fun with your dulcimer - by yourself if that's what you like, or with some friends. Whatever makes you happy.
Thanks for listening - and thanks for sharing your music with me!
Richard Ash, luthier-who-plays-for-fun