I have been somewhat slow posting this week because I have been at music camp in Martinborough. I was so excited that music camp was not Omicronned (interestingly, spell check suggested Omicrobbed as an alternative). Of course, I personally could get Omicronned on my flights (I could be like Jacinda!), or at camp . Travel within New Zealand suddenly seems like a fraught activity, with the potential that one could have to suddenly self-isolate for two weeks in a place that is nowhere close to where one lives. That would be seriously inconvenient, although at least I would have my guitar!
Music camp sounds like something children would go on. Why is that? Why are children more likely to get to go on a camp and learn things than adults? Perhaps it is because we call such events more ‘important’ names like conferences or courses rather than camps. As an adult, it is not nearly as acceptable to go on a ‘camp’ to learn something that is seen as ‘just for fun’. Of course lots of people do learn things as adults. However, adult learning outside the workplace is often considered in the basket of ‘hobbies’, thus is not viewed seriously compared to the way we often view children’s participation in sport or performance. In addition, this music camp isn’t just about getting better at songwriting. It is about performing your self-written songs live and taking your performance to another level. What is a bunch of 40 something to 60 something year olds who, professionally, are teachers and jewellers and grant writers doing learning about how to perform their music live? Isn’t that for young people?
This is a question all the participants have been asking themselves too. When you are a child you don’t question why you are learning things, learning is the norm. Everything you are learning might lead to a future career – if you are learning the guitar you could be a pop star! You don’t question performing, either. As a child, recitals for adoring family and friends is the norm. If you are 50 something, being a pop star is not a reasonable aspiration. You might also be short on adoring family and friends who want to spend their valuable time listening to you perform; you almost certainly won’t be able to drum up enough to fill an audience! However, performing is critical if you are a songwriter. The purpose of songs is to invoke emotions and you can’t invoke emotions unless people are hearing your songs.
Charlotte Yates, our tutor and a long term performer, suggests that a growth mindset is what it is all about. We are all at some level of performance ability, and we can all get better. The real struggle is to identify where you are headed with your growth mindset, when you no longer have that star-studded vision suggesting pop-stardom is even a remote possibility. Gigging regularly to make your way up the music hierarchy isn’t a possibility either – 40-60 year olds have homes and children, or parents to look after, for the most part. They can’t trip around the country performing night after night and they probably don’t want to, either (they tend to like their sleep). However, they might want to play some gigs, which are now very few and far between with COVID.
In terms of lack of gigs, Charlotte was incredibly happy to jam and harmonise with a big group of musicians last night. She said the last time she got to do that was August, and it is part of her DNA, something she really misses if it isn’t happening. She just had a major event in March cancelled and doesn’t know when her next significant gig will be. It is painful to realise how much the music and other performance industries are hurting as a result of COVID – this industry is about earning money but it is as much about being able to do the things that you are both wired and love to do. Performers can’t do that at present, and they can’t see when live performance is going to pick back up again.
I suggested to Charlotte that a collection of adult learners writing stories about their ambitions and what they have achieved could be useful, because adult learners are short on role models. What is realistic for us? What have other people achieved? It is impressive that the 6 people on this music camp who went to the last one have all achieved their last camp’s goals, which included putting out EPs or albums and performing live. Tomorrow we get to identify what our goals are for the next year…that’s going to be putting me on the spot. Eighteen months ago my goal was to learn to play the guitar well enough to be able to write and perform songs. I have got as far as performing at open mics. Now I am going to have to tell a group of people how I plan to take my songs to a next level and they might hold me to it……