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2016 Year in Review / 2017 Look Ahead

Your scribe (second from right) with some friends at the 2017 Raccoon County Music Festival. (Source: Chagrin Valley Times)
Well, it's been a minute, hasn't it? The last year has been difficult on many fronts. Playing music was no exclusion. The amount of time I spent playing banjo and fiddle suffered the most. I didn't blog much either, which you already knew. But it wasn't all bad. Here's a look back at last year and a look ahead to my goals for the year ahead.

2016 Notes
I have now been playing banjo for eight years and fiddle for four years. My focus remains on the fiddle, as I try to learn general technique and tunes. Time spent playing banjo was mostly to keep up with a handful of tunes I like most.

Playing Time: Due to increased work travel and other factors, my playing time was dramatically reduced in 2016. As mentioned before, I log my practice time in the quest to reach that fabled 10,000-hour mark. This last year was my lowest (by far) amount of time spent on banjo and second lowest time on fiddle.

New Tunes: Despite my reduced playing time, I worked through two fiddle instructional videos and learned 11 new tunes in 2016. Via Bruce Molsky's "Southern Old-Time Fiddle Tour," I learned "Washington's March" from Edden Hammons, "Saddle Up the Gray" from Carter Brothers and Son, "Old Bunch of Keys" from Tommy Jarrell, "Lost Indian" from Eck Robertson and "Candy Girl" from Uncle Bunt Stephens. Via Erynn Marshall's "Learn to Play Southern Old-Time Fiddle," I learned "Jump Jim Crow" and "Going Down to Georgi-O" from Melvin Wine, "Indian Ate the Woodchuck" from John Salyer (C version), "Boatin' Up Sandy" from Paul David Smith, "Granddad's Favorite" from Ernie Carpenter and "Calico" from Jim Bowles.

Social: I only made it out to two jams this year. That's way low, even for my standards. However, I did attend three local festivals. The new Lake Erie Folk Fest in February, Music in the Valley in July and Raccoon County Music Festival in August provided the bulk of my social music playing.

Other Highlights: While my playing time decreased in 2016, my listening time has been on the rise. My wife bought me a new record player for our living room. That led to my getting back into collecting vinyl. During a record hunt in July, I stumbled upon a copy of the 1976 Rounder release of Ed Haley, "Parkersburg Landing." For Christmas, I received Roscoe Holcomb "San Diego Folk Festival 1972" released in 2015 by Tomkins Square and the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. In November, I attended a concert by the Molsky's Mountain Drifters at the Happy Days Lodge in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

2017 Goals
Upon finishing those two fiddling videos, I started to wonder what other instructional materials would help me. I'm not sure there's much more a video could teach me, other than more tunes. Instead, it seems my best course of action is to cut my own path and learn what I want to learn.

Ohio River Valley Music: Over the last year or so, I've gravitated toward old-time musicians active in the Ohio River Valley. This year, I plan to focus on one of those fiddlers, Ward Jarvis, who moved from central West Virginia to Athens County, Ohio, in the 1940s. Using the Field Recorders Collective release of Jarvis's music collected by Jeff Goehring, my goal is to absorb some of his fiddling style and learn a few tunes on both fiddle and banjo.

Numbers: In addition to learning Jarvis's tunes, I also have my requisite goals in terms of quantifiable playing time. I'm shooting for 216 hours on fiddle and 58 hours on banjo. These are lofty goals, considering I logged 152 hours on fiddle and 25 hours on banjo in 2016. Right now, it seems doable. Time will tell.

I'll try to check in more often in 2017. Happy New Year!


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