Walnut Valley Festival

So I've got to say I sincerely appreciated those of you that came out to cheer me on at the Walnut Valley contest! It was great fun!

Going into the contest, I really wasn't very nervous. I wasn't particularly overwhelmed. When someone asked me later how I did? I replied "Well, let's just say I competed!"

Did I choke? Not really. I might even say I was perhaps a bit over confident. When I found out that there were over 20 contestants, I concluded the odds were greatly increased against my placing in the contest, so I resolved to make a good showing and do the best I could!

I feel what actually happened is probably worthy of note and instructive. Let's not worry about the outcome. By now most of you have heard me play, "Lazy John". It is a favorite of mine and a good choice for the contest.

So, my big moment came, I was set up and ready to go. My dulcimer was tuned and I started to play Lazy John. Finger picking. There are many times when I do play this song with finger picking so it felt quite natural to do so at that moment. However, the manner in which I had this song arranged demanded I use a pick.

I happily played along and got almost completely through the 1st part when I realized that I had no pic in my hand. That pic was still in the pocket. My backup pic was neatly tucked underneath my capo. So, with the pic I intended to use residing in my pocket, I found myself trying to figure out what would be the easiest, fastest, and most unobtrusive way to grab a pic.

There was no other way; I had to break the momentum of the song, reach up and grab the pic from underneath my capo, and continue. It, of course, came out like a hiccup. And, this was the point at which my "newbieness" shone forth. For the rest of the set and all the way through my second piece, I was unnerved.

Competing in the National Dulcimer Championship at Walnut Valley was great fun.

I'm not saying that just because I can't say anything else about it. I may have a few regrets about the way I did it. But I have no regrets about doing it. I got a chance to visit with very many extremely talented musicians, all of whom were likewise nervous but also friendly and encouraging.

I was so glad that Wendy Songe was the ultimate winner! And I am so glad that Cassie (from Ark City and a friend of many of our club members) came in 3rd. I thought Eunice [our club member!] did exceptionally well! All in all I was happy to be in such good company!

When I finished and I went backstage. Duane Porterfield handed me a pick. I assume that he had surmised exactly what I had done, he smiled and said, "Here, you might need this someday!" That pick is the one pictured at the top of this column. I will treasure it for a long time.

After all the dust settled and we got home that night, I had a moment to come back down-to-earth. What did I do? Well, I did what any musician would do. I took out my dulcimer. I played through all five of my pieces. Flawlessly (just to prove to myself that I could do it), and then I composed a song.

Rest assured, you will get an opportunity to hear this song sometime when we happen to have an open mic.

And, I will most probably play it next year it at Walnut Valley!

Gary Bell, V.P.

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