Joe Craven is a master musician, gifted teacher and all around fun guy. I had the pleasure of attending his workshop on folk music at the Strawberry Music Festival, this past Labor Day weekend. Joe makes a strong case that everyone can make music, once we overcome our preconceived notions about what it means to be a “musician”. We are, in fact, already making music that we don’t often recognize. If we can listen just a little bit differently, we will find rhythm in our walking and melody in our speech.
Of course, all of this talk was accompanied by lots of music, most of it supplied by Joe playing fiddle, mandolin, jawbone (a real one), trash can, various kitchen items and himself. It’s hard not to be awed by such ease and facility at producing music and after the workshop ended, I hung around to ask him this question: Where does mastery enter the folk music process?
His answer was (and here I’m paraphrasing wildly), that mastery is the ability to remain a student, anticipating continued learning. He told the story of cellist Pablo Casals, who told an interviewer, at the age of 90, that he woke up every morning and looked across the room to where his cello, chair and music stand stood. And it was his curiosity about what he would learn that day that got him out of bed and drew him to sit down to practice the instrument he had played since the age of eleven.
At the time I thought that Joe, zen-like, had kind of danced around my question. However, I think what he wanted to get across was that it takes something besides 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery. It takes a frame of mind in which you are open to all that is possible, coupled with the curiosity and courage to try whatever comes to mind, even though it may not work.
Here’s a short clip of Joe Craven in action: