Monday, July 13, 2009

Smithville Jamboree

A couple of weekends ago, Earl and I decided on a whim (and I do mean a whim) to travel to Smithville, TN for the Anuual Smithville Jamboree. I had been working with Chelsea all week on a few fiddle tunes because she was planning on going. None of us had ever been there, but it just seemed like a fun thing to do for the 4th of July weekend. Friday morning, July 3, we decided we would go. So did Sylvia and Dave. (Sylvia is one of Chelsea's fiddle students.) We all drove down separately and actually stayed in three separate towns all near Smithville. We were texting each other and planning the next day on the fly.

One of the funnest things that we planned was to enter the band competition. Since Sylvia and Dave attend the beginner's jam every other weekend, I thought it was only fitting that we put this practice to good use. Earl and Dave played guitar, Sylvia and Chelsea played fiddle, and I played the banjo. No bass. We ended up with four part harmony and we did the song "Hot Corn Cold Corn." I showed Sylvia a quick 2-note harmony part to Chelsea's fiddle break, and we were ready to go! We practiced for all of 20 minutes and prepared for our BIG stage debut. We named ourselves the "First Time Out," because it was. I wish I had a video of this, but since we were all on stage, there was no one left to do this. I understand PBS was there, so maybe we were captured on LIVE television. Not so sure if this is a good idea or not! We did great, though we didn't place. More than anything, it was a whole lot of fun.

Chelsea and I entered the fiddle competitions. They had rather strange divisions and also strange contest rules. You only get to play ONE song unless you make it to the finals. I think it would be very difficult to pick winners without a waltz and a hoedown at least! The Junior Division of Old Time Fiddle was ages 13-39 years old. The Senior Division starts at 40 years old (for yours truly). Then there was an Open Bluegrass Division for all kinds of fancy fiddling, jazz, Texas swing, and pretty much anything else you can think of. This was a brand new division and was the first year for it. I believe it transpired from a multitude of fiddle players who couldn't understand the placement in the Old Time Style Division. Now the "fancy" fiddlers have their own division.

Chelsea chose to play "Lost Indian" for the Bluegrass Division and "Whiskey Before Breakfast" for the Junior Old Time Division. She played very well in both divisions and I think put New Athens on the map for us (at least in Smithville!). Check below for some video clips.

I entered both the banjo and the fiddle contests. For banjo, I probably played the worst I have ever played in a contest. It wasn't that I made a lot of mistakes, because I didn't. I just didn't know I was going to enter a contest so I didn't prepare. I am used to playing things slow all day, every day, for my students. I don't play fast enough unless I prepare several weeks in advance. For fiddle, it turns out I was the youngest in the Senior Division. It kind of made me feel bad competing against folks that were 20 and 30+ years older than myself -- until I heard them play. Wow! They were all VERY good! I was the only female in that division. In the bluegrass division, I played my grandma's favorite tune "Draggin' the Bow." Although I didn't place in the Bluegrass Division (my song wasn't hard enough), I was the only one to get audience applause in the middle of my performance. I placed third in the Old Time Division, though I didn't play in the finals because of a LONG rain delay. We had been there since 7:30 a.m., and it started raining around 8:30 p.m. The contest was delayed until 11:45 p.m. At that point, there were 5 square dancing teams to go and 10 more individual instrument finals to go.

Thanks to Earl, Chelsea and Danny for playing guitar for me in the various contests and divisions! Here are some videos from the contest of Chelsea and me.

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