Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sensibility Aside - Joining the Minnesota Mandolin Orchestra

About four years ago I decided I'd like to play the mandolin. So I purchased a nice, inexpensive mandolin from Homestead Pickin' Parlor in Richfield and started taking lessons with fabulous musician, Karen Mueller.

I played steadily for over a year then upgraded to a beautiful Michael Kelly "F" style mandolin. It's a beautiful instrument and I loved playing it - but then I was in two Northfield Arts Guild musicals in a row. With rehearsals and life I pretty much stopped playing and my Michael Kelly sat in its case for a long, long, time
My mandolin - the Legacy Dragonfly Flame. Picture from the Michael Kelly website.
It's a shame to let a beautiful instrument sit so I started thinking about ways to get myself playing again. There are lessons and jam sessions I could attend and, of course, I could be self motivated and just play at home. But each of those options presented challenges - among them lack of funds for frequent lessons, schedule conflicts with the jam sessions and the simply fact that I'm not great at self-motivation.

So I decided to join the Minnesota Mandolin Orchestra.

This decision was really not sensible. I pretty much hadn't played in two years and wasn't very good to begin with. I'm not even a fan of classical mandolin music (though it's growing on me) and classical music comprises about 85% of the MMO's play list.

I knew that joining the MMO was a silly idea. But I knew that if I joined I would have structure and motivation and would start playing regularly again. So I contacted Lon, the director, who invited me to join them for a rehearsal just before Christmas.

I was completely and totally overwhelmed at that first rehearsal. The music the group plays is challenging. Very challenging. And there's a lot of challenging music to play - about twenty songs, some of them three pages long!  I stumbled through the first rehearsal as best I could. I did not do well. A month after starting to play again I still don't play very well at rehearsals but I keep working at the music and play along the best I can. I have so much to learn and a long way to go before I come close to mastering even one piece of music.

But guess what? I may be overwhelmed but I also feel completely and totally welcomed by the members of the group (especially by Cindy who sits next to me in the back row of the Mandolin I section). I feel like it matters if I show up or not - so I show up every Monday. The members assure me that I will figure out the music - so I keep practicing. And last week they took an official MMO publicity picture and I'm in it - I see that as a good sign that they aren't going to kick me out :)
Publicity shot of the Minnesota Mandolin Orchestra - 2012. Photo MMO
I'm glad I threw sensibility aside and joined the MMO. My beautiful Michael Kelly is getting out of its case on a regular basis now. My playing skills are improving rapidly. I'm having fun making music and spending time with neat people.

You know, sometimes sensible is overrated and silly is the way to go. Try it sometime.


Danyelle said...

How exciting, well done! Someday, I will have to attend a concert.

Joy Riggs said...

Hooray, Myrna! Your 'just do it' attitude is an inspiration.

Tedd Ronning said...

Its great to have you in the orchestra Myrna. Keep it up! We promise we won't kick you out!

M2Lou said...

I agree with Tedd. If Lon was going to toss anyone out due to lack of skills, it would have been me 10 years ago:) Welcome to the MMO!