Some of my favorite "moments" at festivals are spent with children. Yeah, sometimes I shudder when a hyper-active child whirls into my space, and, without having really paid any attention to what I'm doing, exclaims, "Lemme try that!" I do occasionally let kids play the dulcimer, but I try to size them up as to whether they will be respectful of the instrument; in fact, by asking them if they are willing to do exactly what I tell them to do (as to holding the hammers, and tapping gently). After all, I don't want to spend 30 minutes re-tuning a dulcimer that's been pounded out of tune by an overly enthusiastic drumming. Nor do I want to lose a $50 pair of hammers to rough treatment! Although I'm always running a slight risk -- and I typically travel with only one instrument -- it's a beautiful thing to witness the sheer joy in a child who's discovering how music is made.
Kids don't necessarily always want to play, either, but sometimes they can come up with questions and observations that are real doozies! The schoolteacher in me tries to send them away with something meaningful.
Last weekend, a wiry, big-eyed little boy skidded up to me and wanted to know about the dulcimer. "How do you play?" he demanded; "Do you strum it or what?" It was toward the end of the day, and I'd already packed all of my gear and accessories, though I hadn't yet packed the instrument itself. I briefly considered telling him that I was done for the day, but instead I gave him a tight-lipped little smile and said, "Here, let me show you."
I hadn't played many notes when he called out, "Mom, you've got to come over and see this!" His mother, along with a teen-ager who proved to be his sister, came over to listen. When I wrapped up playing the merry little ditty, the girl thoughtfully remarked, "You know, Mom, you've been thinking about learning to play a musical instrument. This would probably be a good one for you to try."
"That's a great idea!" the boy chimed in. The mother smiled and shrugged, saying, "Well, it certainly is beautiful."
"Mommm," he said, "all musical instruments are beautiful ... even the banjo!" Then he did a comical little "air banjo" routine, mimicking its sound with a twanging "deedle-eedle-deedle-deedle" and dancing around.
All musical instruments are beautiful. From out of the mouths of babes, huh? He's right, you know. I'm so glad I didn't turn him away!
Earlier that same day, a family had come by, and one of the boys looked over the CDs and selected A Mighty Fortress. He handed it to his mother, who said, "So are you sure that's the one you want?" He nodded, and she told him that the CD would be part of his birthday present, then.
Turning to me, she asked if I would autograph the CD, and said that he'd asked to come to the show because he wanted some of my music for his birthday.
To Vincent: Blessings on your 13th Birthday. From very humbled and honored me.