I have been involved with many local music gatherings through out the years. I find that sometimes folks don't know what is expected or what the rules are. Better yet they don't have the sense of respect to sit back and watch the group to see if there is a format. They are so excited to play out with others that they eagerly blast off.Many have never played in a group setting, which we all know is different from pickin all alone on the porch. Some of the folks have had bigger ego's than talent and don't care about anyone but themselves. Some have been desperate, depressed and looking for a way to connect with positive energy.....the list goes on.
I don't make the assumption that every one knows how to play in our group setting. Bit it is clear to me that the majority that show up for music gatherings are looking for an outlet and an opportunity to share their music in a friendly setting.
In our group we do things "Southern Style". Several of us share the responsiblity of keeping things in a loose format.We make no assumptions!We have found that being polite, supportive and informative works, spelling out the format for the evening of music when a new person arrives."Tune it or die" gets the point across so that everyone tunes their instrument, and the regular comment "close enough for folk" is the point where we pass a tuner to the offender with a smile on our face.
When a new person comes in, we take a few minutes to greet and introduce ourselves, encouraging new comers to tell us a little bit about themselves,where they feel their musical level is at, what type of music are they interested in playing, or if they like to sing. Then we explain the round robin format that we use, which gives everyone an opportunity to choose a tune or pass.We direct the noodling,by saying excuse me we are playing this tune next, or your turn will be coming around soon, so be prepared to pick a tune.
We try to keep the music moving, and yet take time out to break so that we can "visit" as a group. If we wish to have a real conversation with someone, we get up and go outdoors or to another part of the building. We encourage tune sharing, someone may play their favorite tune that no one knows, that's fine. If they want us to play it with them next time, it is their responsiblity to bring in a recording or the music. If the timing is off, someone taps the beat out with their foot, if someone is rushing the tune, we lean closer to the person so the can hear what is really going on. We deal with negative people and energy by making "polite" fun of the situation not the person.We do not wish to offend or exclude anyone. Our group is open to the public, located in a public place (a train station) supported by the city.We have had people passing through on their travels, weary and looking sad, sit down and slowly start smiling. Others have come with their own musical objective of doing their thing and have left when it didn't work out they way they wanted. We realize that our approach to managing a music group is not for everyone and if they don't care for our "style". That's fine, they can start their own group. As a result, we have built friendsips, we have all learned some great tunes, we have become better players and we have been able to keep a motivated and positive musical expereince going on for well over two years.