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If you are studying an instrument or learning to sing, sooner or later you will want to try out your music on an audience. It may be in a living room for family and friends, at an "open mike" night at a coffee house or local club, or at a professional engagement. No matter how large or small the audience, as soon as you come before them with your instrument in your hand or a song on your lips you are performing and there are some basic things you should know to help you do your best, and give the maximum pleasure to your listeners.
I started playing the guitar when I was 16. With my parent’s help, I bought a Harmony Sovereign with an action so high you could slice cheese on the fingerboard. My fingers got pretty sliced up, too. It never occurred to me back then that I could have taken it to a repair shop to get it adjusted. (Actually, I’m not sure there was such a thing in the Bronx in 1954.) So, I struggled with it for a couple of years, learning my basic chords and some folk songs, and building some pretty impressive callouses.
In 1957, I was 19 and already a committed folkie and a frequent participant in the Washington Square jam sessions on fair-weather Sundays. I had heard of a place that was opening on MacDougal Street, just a few blocks away, so I went over there one May afternoon for the Grand Opening. I found myself in a group of fellow folk singers having a jam of our own in the back room of the little shop. Jean Ritchie was there with her dulcimer, as were Carolyn Hester, Roy Berkeley, Cynthia Gooding, Mollie Scott and several others. Jean’s husband, photographer George Pickow, captured this now-iconic photo at that event.
Sometimes odd bits of ephemera show up from your past, as did this poster from a festival in Culpepper, Virginia in 1973, thanks to Fred Robbins. This event was one for the books. It was billed as a "bluegrass folk festival" and it sure had a lot of everything, including much post-hippie craziness.