On Tuesday nights in the North Seattle neighborhood of Wedgwood the backroom of the Wedgwood Alehouse is taken over by an Old Time jam. Instrument cases pile up under the pool tables, chairs and stools are brought into tight concentric rings, a melody will be offered up from a fiddle somewhere in the corner, and then the room is off and running. If you know the tune, you play it. If you don't, you learn it as you go. In between tunes, drinks are drunk, gab happens, and the Old Time community makes another successful investment in the social fabric that binds it together.
Music is so often delivered digitally these days, and delivered to the ears of single person rather than to a group. Consuming music in this way removes so many of the social elements once inevitably delivered along with musical experiences. Even live music can be a thing somewhat distant from the consumer. Audience sits out there, musicians sit up there, and the distinction between the two is ever preserved. I love the Old Time music scene because social is baked in. Tunes are traded person to person, played in groups both small and large, and are at their best when a variety of instruments are in the mix. New musicians sit next to seasoned ones, and the transfer of skills and repertoire happens organically (although admittedly sometimes with the aid of a recording device, these days). At an event like the Old Time jam people trade news with each other along with the tunes, and get all the subtle but important benefits of social proximity and context (see Susan Pinker's book The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier, and SmarterThe Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier, and SmarterThe Village Effect which lays out the many ways in which regular social interactions benefit individual health and wellness).
I have to sometimes rally to get out of the house at 8pm on a Tuesday evening, but I'm always glad when I do. You can check out this jam, and several others like it, any time -- look for details on the Old Time Seattle website. Not your particular music ball of wax? There are other musical communities out there as well: jazz, Irish, blues, Cajun...you name it. Unlock it all through the powers of the internet, and then get out there and give it a try!