Sometimes life comes full-circle and causes one to pause and reflect on the journey it has been. Sometimes it is the most unexpected circumstances that bring about those moments. That experience came for me this year in a September rainstorm. I was on stage – a make-shift stage under a tin roof – when the rain started, and my mind flashed back fifteen years to one of my earliest performance memories.
Suddenly, it was 1997 at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS. I was about to perform with my sister, Amber (fiddle) on one of the main stages for the “Acoustic Kids” program. It was raining that morning, but still we gathered up our instruments, put raincoats and trash bags over everything, and met backstage with the director, Andy May, and all of the other kids who were eager to perform. We had been practicing our two songs for months. I seem to remember something about a tune called “Monkey on a Dogcart” and maybe a song called “You Don’t Have to Move that Mountain” we learned from a Nickel Creek cassette tape. Because of the rain, the sound system could not be run and the audience seating was not covered, so Andy May and his helpers came up with a solution. There was a little covered area adjacent to the main stage where we could still have the show. A picnic table became the make-shift stage and the show went on. The rain created a thunderous applause, and we learned more than one lesson that day.
Sometimes life creates circumstances which are less than ideal. Sometimes you have to get a little bit creative and improvise to find a solution. Life and music are not so different, you see. Sometimes it rains. Then you choose to keep going with a smile, or stop and complain.
My mind began to flash through the fifteen years since that rainy-day Acoustic Kids concert in 1997. Other shows played in the rain, played during chemo-therapy treatments, played in the snow and freezing cold, and played in perfect weather with perfect sound. Lessons and workshops taken and taught. People who have influenced my life and my playing. So many memories have been conjured up by this one rainstorm.
Then, I am back in the moment, and it is 2013 again. Amber and I are now featured entertainers at the Walnut Valley Festival, but again a rainstorm has thwarted the main-stage performance. I find myself tucked under a tin-roof, inviting the audience to bring their chairs up close in the hopes that they will be able to hear a few notes of music over the thunder and pitter-patter of the rain. The show must go on. A smile comes to my face, we play “You Don’t Have to Move that Mountain,” and life is good. Playing in the rain is not so bad.