I have been blown away by the response to my last post.  Literally thousands of people in dozens of countries have shared what I wrote – something that surely would have scared me away from posting in the first place if I had known this would happen, and which in truth intimidates me a bit now that it’s out there!

But – putting myself aside, which is always the best option anyway – there is such a beauty there too.  Seeing it spread is a testament to the sheer scale of traditional music communities around the world.  And the passion behind a number of responses speaks to how strongly we feel about – and sometimes identify with – the traditions we love.

Here’s the thing though: my story is only one story.  The truth is that there is a whole mosaic of stories out there, waiting to be told by individuals who have participated in many traditions, in whatever large or small way.

In that spirit, I would like to invite responses to my post.  How did you start learning?  What draws you in, and what holds you back?  Did you have the opposite experience – growing up in a traditional community and then making the leap to classical?  (It does happen!)  Do you code-switch between these communities, and do you find you have to be careful about what you say to whom?  What does “tradition” mean to you?  How do you see yourself as part of a bigger tradition – or is this image not helpful to you?  Where does the “traditional” label help to define us, and where is it really starting from a classical mindset to call it that in the first place?


So that we are on a similar page, here are a few gentle guidelines:

a)     I am looking for authentic responses, ideally based in honest stories from your own life experience.  (Is there a moment in time when you realized something – or a moment that you didn’t understand until years later?  Draw on that.)  Your stories can be positive and inspiring, or they can be based in disappointment and frustration – anything.  Just please, save declarative opinion pieces for another forum.  I will not post things about “all ABC people are XYZ” or that include individual attacks on another person’s experience.  Life is too short and the world is too wide.

b)     You must give your real name and location.  This will be included with your story (on request I am willing to post only first names and cities, but civility and anonymity haven’t always gone hand-in-hand online, and I know which one I prefer).  If you want me to link your name to your website (or hey, where we can buy your CD or book, etc.!), include that info too.

c)      No other people’s names should appear in your story.  Protect the innocent – or the guilty.  Either way, let’s all just speak for ourselves.

d)     If you would like to write in a language other than English, go for it!  There are so many areas and traditions that would add rich threads to this tapestry (Catalan speakers?  Breton?  Quebec?).  If we can use Google Translate to get a sense of what you’re saying, then I think we would be honored to benefit from your voice. (No worries about unintended changes: I will post in the original language with a translated link.)

e)     “Traditional” music can mean music from many, many different countries and regions.  (Side note: I love Irish music.  Ireland, yes!  But also yes to Quebec, Sweden, Scotland, Bretagne, Japan, Iran, Ghana, Wales, Moldova, Haiti, the Appalachians, klezmer and the Jewish diaspora… just so long as we agree this ‘yes’ of course does not mean they are all the same, but that perhaps we share more than divides us in this “traditional” label, especially in a conversation about “traditional” versus “classical” music.)

f)       By sending me your story, you are giving me permission to repost it here.  Please make sure you send me finished pieces as I will not be able to go back and make edits later on.

g)     Since I have no idea if I’ll get a few responses or a few hundred, let’s please limit the length of responses to about 300 words.

Do you have a story to share?  Email me here by the end of the weekend (Sunday, September 8, 2013). Again, I have no idea how many responses I’ll get, so I will try to “curate” these stories as quickly (and as diligently) as possible.

I hope to hear from many of you, though. This question about code-switching, learning a new tradition, stepping out of one’s comfort zone, etc. is a rich area.  There is also a lot to say about honoring a tradition’s history – along with what it means to respect the living nature of traditions that grow and honor their roots at the same time…