News from Winfield – September 09

I’m just back from a week at the Nationals in Winfield, Kansas.  I entered the Mountain Dulcimer competition this year and am now officially one of the elite ‘final five’.  The organizers said it was the toughest line up to date.  I was very pleased to be one of the five to compete in the final round.

I felt that I played very well.  The arrangements I came up with were flawless and I’m always pretty hard on myself when it comes to self critiquing.  On a scale of 1 to 10, my songs were a 12 in difficulty.  I always figure go big or go home.  No regrets.  My execution was, as I predicted it would be, ok but a little stiff in a few parts due to nerves.  During the final days of practice while in Kansas the songs were all sounding silky smooth.  I never get nervous unless I’m competing at the nationals.  When I get nervous my right hand stiffens up.  No one would know but me.

The other members of the final five had all been finalists in the competition before.    It seems that the top players simply switch positions each year until finally taking first.  After taking first you’re not allowed to compete for another six years.  I was the only player to do intricate fingerstyle work.  Everyone else played by strumming in a more traditional manner.  One of these things is not like the other – I was also the only woman in the final five this year.  I felt really good about the four guys I was keeping company with back stage.  I particularly enjoyed the gentleman I ‘shared 4th place’ with as the emcee put it when he brought us up on stage to receive our awards.  All very genuine, kind and deserving souls.

I also competed in the fingerstyle guitar competition but did so only to promote Clint Bear’s guitars.  I played two tunes that I know well and am very comfortable with for my first and only round.   The guitar that Clint gave me was without a doubt one of the finest sounding guitars there.  It would have won best-looking hands down if there was a category for that!  Some of the best players in the country came up to ask me about it.  After giving a brief story on OC Bear guitars, I’d hand them the spec sheet.  Hopefully Weed Patch and OC Bear will benefit down the line!

Winfield is a full week of focused practice, sleeping in the back of my truck and jamming every night with some of the best fiddlers in the country ’til 3:00 A.M.  I’m exhausted as usual.  I also managed to fall asleep behind my truck with an empty plate in my lap one afternoon – in full Kansas sun.  Ouch.

I’m not sure if I’ll need to try this again.  As I fumble my way toward taking refuge in Buddhism, my ego becomes more and more of a stranger to me.  My ‘higher self’ took my ‘lower self’ by the hand this week and said “If you want to try this, let’s touch it to see how it feels.”  I learned a great deal about myself regarding focus and intention.  That might be all I need to do with this experience.  We’ll see how I feel about it next year!