Fostering Live Music in the Branch

Editor’s Note: Another of the priorities identified at last year’s AGM was how to increase the use of live music in the branch and foster musicians within the membership. A committee, headed by board member Alan Grant, was appointed and their report follows.

The Ad Hoc RSCDS Music Committee, consisting of Alan Grant, Chair and RSCDS-TC Board Member-at-Large; and Branch members Eric Dam, Janet McKernan, Scott Marsalis and Roberta Williams, met on Saturday, 16 October 2010 to discuss the role of live music at Branch functions.

We began our meeting with a “brief walk down memory lane”, recalling to mind those who have influenced the Branch over the years. These included Ron Wallace, founding member/teacher as well as musician; and the Liebermans of Ames, Iowa, who spent part of a sabbatical year in the Twin Cities in the early 2000s and were instrumental in recruiting Branch members to “play along”; and the Talisker Collective, consisting of several volunteer Branch members and led by Sherry Ladig, who played for most of our Branch socials in 2007-2009. At our Fàilte Ball (early December) and the Grand Ball (March/April in recent years) music has been provided over the past 30 years by the paid professional group Thistledown.

Given the Branch’s tradition of utilizing live music, the Committee expressed strong interest in continuing to promote live music at Branch functions. This is in keeping with the mission statement the board is planning to recommend the Branch adopt:

The mission of the RSCDS-Twin Cities is to further the appreciation and practice of Scottish country dancing in Minnesota for present and future generations by offering classes and workshops, training teachers, sponsoring dances, performing, and supporting musicians within and beyond the group to learn and play Scottish country dance music.

Piggybacking on that was the clear directive to promote and encourage Branch members to “pick up the fiddle” (or whatever your weapon of choice) and join in the fun of making music. An informal task force has evolved, utilizing Branch members Eric Dam and Helen Grant with Lara Friedman-Shedlov as consultant, to help pull things together, encouraging musicians to become acquainted with a variety of music (e.g. jigs, reels and strathspeys) played in the Scottish tradition.

Another item that came up for discussion was the role of live music at Branch “gigs” (e.g. Big Island, Ren Fest and others). This included helping lead dances at special events such as weddings or parties organized by others outside the Branch. The Ad Hoc Committee strongly recommended that the Branch person coordinating the performance be the one to negotiate a separate contract with professional musicians when live music was requested, rather than letting the hiring party supply do so. This would ensure that those providing the music had familiarity with Scottish Country Dance music including style, balance and tempo. The Committee agreed to put together a list of suggested local musicians, along with their contact information, for use as a resource by the performance coordinator.

Finally, we put our “thinking caps” on and pondered what might be a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) for us as a Branch: Organizing and promoting a weekend music workshop that would use musicians of national renown such as Liz Donaldson, Elke Baker, Hanneke Cassel, etc. Financing this would be a challenge and we would need to explore possible donations from others within the Twin Cities Scottish community.

This is all a “work in progress” and we welcome your ideas and suggestions. Please feel free to contact any of us on the Ad Hoc Music Committee.

Respectfully submitted,

Alan W. Grant

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