Last summer, I accidentally joined a band.
This may have happened to you before.
The way it works is that someone you know says, “We need a back-up djembe player. If you’re interested in attending a workshop at Duke that covers the basics, we’re picking up the tab.”
Which sounds fun, so you go.
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And then you agree to play backup for your first gig, except that when you arrive, you learn that the experienced drummer is actually out of town.
“It’s all you, babe” the friend who drafted you says.
So you do your best which turns out not half bad, and you get scheduled to play on an every-other-week basis. An action shot of you even appears in the Facebook group’s header montage.
Which makes you feel like an imposter. Maybe you’re good for a beginner, but despite having cut your own hair to look like the rockabilly queen from Shovels and Rope, you’re no Carey Ann Hearst.
Want my advice? Roll with it. Because maybe you have forgotten how magical it is to make music with people.
Or maybe you haven’t. Durham’s ability to outfit every bar room, coffee shop, and concert hall with any genre the listening public could want consistently impresses me.
You like classics? There’s the Triangle Opera and the Durham Symphony Orchestra.
Need some Motown or blues in your life? Call up Johnny White and the Elite Band.
Feeling merengue? Check out Orquesta Samecumba.
Want your fix of indy pop? Sylvan Esso has you covered.
And on the days when you just need to access your inner punk, Red Collar is ready to rock you.
And then there are church buildings circa the 1970s in the Five Oaks neighborhood with vaulted wood ceilings painted robin’s egg blue where you could find yourself practicing on Wednesday nights.
That’s the venue in which, for the past six months, I’ve been playing percussion for my church’s Sunday worship band. The djembe AND the shaker.
Well. I only play the shaker as of last week. And I don’t own either of my instruments, so when we occasionally have to practice off-site, say, at someone’s house, I actually play the Tupperware cake saver and the Tic Tac box.
It’s difficult to get nuance out of a container of breath mints, but I’m getting pretty good at it.
Then again, my performing career has always been a case of use-what-you-have.
In high school, my first orchestral contribution was the oboe solo for a song in a children’s musical. By which I mean I played a melody line on a keyboard set to “oboe.”
Two years ago, my housemates who had a legit jug band involving a washboard, an accordion, Eric Who Played The Spoons, and a galvanized tin tub that had to be turned sideways to fit through our front door (and was played with a large stick from the yard) invited me to sing with them since I didn’t have any other instruments.
So I belted the words to “Chim Chim Cher-ee” over the accordion riffs in the back bedroom. I guess that was the first time I accidentally joined a band.
Every time it happens though, I have the time of my life.
The thing I’ve learned by saying yes to the rhythm-keepers of this town is that you don’t have to wait until you’re sure you’re good. When somebody asks you to join them, just do it.
If you can rattle a box of tic tacs while digging around in your purse, you should think twice about whether or not you have any potential.
Use what you have. Learn as you go. Have fun.
Accidentally join bands.
You can reach Hannah C. Mitchell at email@example.com