By Wendi Bernau
I wish I could have gotten all 30 of us into the picture, but such is the nature of the selfie. We had guitars, autoharp, bass, ukuleles, mandolin, drums... People from barely big enough to hold the uke (and maybe not even holding it right side up) to retirees.
This past week, I had the joy of participating in Fork n Folk with the Neighboring Movement by SoCe Life in Wichita KS. Check them out, awesome people, fabulous work.
Fork n Folk: The fork part is about eating together first. Nourish your body, nourish your soul. The folk part is borne out of love for folk music, particularly the traditions (like bluegrass) of spontaneous jam sessions where all are welcome to pick up any instrument and add to the sound - young and old, experienced and beginner, everyone is welcome to the group, making music together. That's what folk means: Regular folks. Making music. Together.
As a musician, I love to play. I love to perform too, but just being in a group and playing and having fun doing it, mistakes and all, no pressure of pleasing or impressing an audience, just the pure enjoyment of being together and holding space for everyone to join in - that is priceless. Every time I have had the opportunity to sit and jam with a group of strangers (and oddly enough, that's been twice in the last three months), it has been such a fabulous experience of belonging for me. We make music. We belong here in this spontaneous creation of sound, with a handful of songbooks and human experience. It doesn't matter that we don't know each other (yet). I will get to know you and your energy through the process of making the music with you. I love that!
What brings the people together? The food? maybe, but my guess is not so much. It's a nice perk. The music? Yeah, we love music, absolutely. But folk music in particular has memorable melodies, great (often socially justice / challenging) lyrics, it's easy to play, and fun to sing. I once asked someone in a nostalgic moment remembering the 1960s and 70s what she loved most about folk songs, and she replied: "I'm not a great guitar player, but I could actually play all of those. They're simple enough for me to feel like I can be part of [the music-making]."
Bringing people together to make something bigger than we are individually? YES, PLEASE! Forming community around a shared love of food and music? YES, PLEASE! Laughing as much as we play and sing? YES, PLEASE! Space for everyone to feel valued as a part of the harmony we can only create together? YES, PLEASE!
It's all good. Yes, some people are fabulous players and they rock it out with solo turns and instrumental passes on a few songs. But if we as a whole group don't sound good all the time? No one notices. We're not planning on quitting our day jobs. We're not hoping to sell records. We're not looking to gather an audience to clap. Why not? Because we're having too much fun. Living life and making music. Together.
Thank you, SoCe Life, for this most excellent experience.