SHARING – by Rua Macmillan

‘Would you ever consider teaching online?’ One of my students asked me this just as the lockdown started. To be honest, I’d never really thought about it in any detail before. Our first lesson seemed to go pretty well – I could hear and see them, they could hear and see me, and we can screen share the music too… Yes, there are a whole host of problems that occur when using technology, no I don’t know how to fix them, but it’ll do for now…

My comfort zone is playing and teaching – it’s definitely not sitting in front of a computer for hours on end – Zoom, recording, music notation software, the dreaded Video Editing… however, I’ve learned LOADS in the last eight months and discovered there’s still plenty more I don’t know, and even more I didn’t know I didn’t know – but I’m relishing the challenge!

I started up a couple of evening group classes during the summer, which have since turned into a fantastic community of folk. Whilst the main focus is always working on a new tune or technique, it’s also a social gathering – somewhere to catch up, socialise, and escape from the Covid-19 routine for a wee while. We’ve even had some tasting notes for the various gins we’ve been sampling too!

This got me thinking about community and how it ties in with our music. Take any collection of tunes or song and you’ll find music for dancing, for drinking, for mourning and for celebrating. Our traditional music has been a pillar of community and continues to be now more than ever. No, we can’t currently share it in person, but we CAN still share it, and that brings us together. We can share in learning a new tune, or watching a live stream. It still amazes me that I can teach a class, from the comfort of my desk and have people from all over the UK, Europe and North America there in real time!

With Blazin Fiddles, we recently ran our annual music school, Blazin’ in Beauly (BlaZOOM in Beauly) entirely online. We had an early morning warm up session, evening classes, group work and sessions each day. We had over 140 students, many of whom have been coming to Beauly for years and it was great to be, as someone put it, ‘back in the Beauly Bubble’. We even managed the Friday Night Raffle! That said, manually putting that many folk into Zoom Breakout rooms was character building to say the least!

The other big event of the year for me was our Not-Wedding. Myself and my partner, Laura, were due to get married in April, but “Lockdown” had other plans. Enter fellow Blazer Bruce MacGregor, who had the idea to host our virtual wedding, on the day, on his Live at 5 show on Facebook. The only snag was both our outfits were stuck in the shops, so we made the most of what we had in…Jammies, a fitted sheet, and a Blazin’ Fiddles Tea Towel as a kilt substitute!

With outfits sorted and Black Isle Correspondent Anna Massie ‘officiating’, we made our vows, had speeches from our pals, even managed a first dance with folk sending in videos of a Gay Gordons – its was really quite amazing!

It’s hard to believe that was seven months ago, but the real thing is happening this weekend, so I’d better start packing!

Keep playing, keep learning, keep sharing.