The first week of this semester, I signed up for my school’s Bluegrass Ensemble on a whim. Maybe not that much of a whim, because I had been wanting to get back into performing again, but I hadn’t really imagined that it would be through Bluegrass. Ever since coming to Ohio for college, I’ve felt more pulled toward roots and American folk music. This is surprising as, coming from Massachusetts, I didn’t really have much exposure to these genres. So when I saw the signup form on the music bulletin board, I wrote my name down and was instantly filled with nerves.
A lot of my childhood and early teenage years revolved around music; I started the piano at five years old, and the violin at nine. I never was the best in orchestra or a prodigy who brought home the top awards at violin competitions, but I still had a strong love for performing. I stuck with my music routine until about my junior year of high school, and once COVID-19 hit, my years of playing violin came to a pause. But with the end of my violin era came the beginning of another instrument. Similar to a lot of others, I picked up a lot of hobbies during COVID-19, but the one that really stuck with me was playing guitar. Having always had my aunt’s old guitar sitting around in my room, I picked it up here and there over the years, but didn’t get consistent with it until I eventually had so much time on my hands. In the spring of my freshman year at college, I finally decided to start taking guitar lessons, and have continued ever since.
My current guitar teacher started the Bluegrass Ensemble at Kenyon last spring, and since starting lessons with him, he has instilled enough confidence in me that pushed me to sign up for the group. I knew that by joining this ensemble, I’d be thrown into a genre and style of playing that was unfamiliar to me, but I didn’t fully realize how challenging this experience would be. During our first rehearsal, we went straight into breaking – or improvised solos. I completely froze when it came to my turn. I had never played guitar in a group before, let alone improvised. I had no clue what I was doing, and my limited music theory knowledge from middle school orchestra was failing me. After our first two-hour rehearsal, I was convinced that I was going to drop the ensemble. But I came back the next week, and then the next, and I’ve slowly started to find my place in bluegrass. Our first performance made me realize how much I missed playing music for a crowd and gave me more courage as a guitar player. While this ensemble has been an extreme learning curve for me, recently I’ve come to realize that college is the perfect time to experiment with interests and passions. I’ve found some of my favorite parts of college by randomly signing up for a group, a club, or a class. I’ve spent a lot of my life doubting my abilities to participate in certain interests, but this ensemble has given me greater confidence to explore my passions.