Busking. Its something I’ve never done until just recently. A friend of mine asked me “What if another musician you know sees you?” I took that “what if” along with me to my first morning playing at the City Market last Saturday. It activated my anxiety on the car ride there and as I carried my folding chair and my old fiddle case to my spot. There were all these people going about their business buying vegetables and standing in line at food trucks and I was supposed to just set up in the middle of everyone and start playing. And what if someone saw me? There was no where to hide.
Yet as soon as I started fiddling I felt comfortable. There’s something about playing an instrument that can feel like a shield at times — maybe its the familiarity of the fingerboard or the soothing that comes from the music itself. All the what ifs shed away and it became just me and a sea of bustling humanity. I played for hours and I began to realize that giving music for free in this way was a shedding of the usual barrier I feel when I perform on a stage. The music without a stage, a fee, and a predetermined concert etiquette was a disarmament of sorts. Old men stopped and listened as they cried. Children were dancing and attracted a crowd of people who clapped for them. The looks babies gave me were so intense, like they were all trying to remember the name of the tune I was playing. In between songs people told me about their families, their feelings on the system of things, and how their lives used to be.
It was a really humbling experience because I was exposed to how unknowingly judgemental I can be. Seriously. Most of the time I go around and think things about people I encounter in public situations such as “that person is poor, on drugs, unrefined, uneducated, too rich, too snobbish, too young, too old, self-absorbed, too unhealthy, dangerous….ETC.” And yet, when I was playing fiddle for these people and I started to have these thoughts the person would reach in their pocket and pull out a dollar – an acknowledgement that they had been touched in some way. I was being shown: we’re all in this together.
To be honest, I was doing all of this for the money (I’m a traveler at heart and I have some pretty expensive trips coming up that I need to fund). Yet after a while the dollars placed in my case seemed less like money and more like votes for beautiful connections between strangers. I walked away with a crazy sunburn on the places I missed when I put sunscreen on, but more importantly, I walked away with a heart that opened up a little more. A paradigm shift has occurred.
So, for the month of July I am committed to busking as much as I can. I will be updating this blog frequently.
Til next time…