If you're feeling shy, start by playing background music. One of my long-time dulcimer buddies refers to this as "potted plant" music. Believe me, playing in the background and playing on stage are two different experiences. Do yourself a favor. Take yourself out of the limelight. In some settings, the audience won't even know live music is being played. They'll think it's a cd!
What's that you say? Nobody's beating down the door with invitations for you to play? No worries! There are plenty of ways to make your own gigs.
- Play at a family gathering or neighborhood party.
- Play at church, nursing homes, the VA hospital, or your local Hospice facility.
- Present an Elder-Hostel program.
- Support your favorite non-profit organization by playing at a fundraising event.
- Play in the park or at your local farmers' market.
- Provide music during brunch or sign up for open mic at your favorite local cafe.
- You may be sick of politics, but political functions are great places to hone performance skills.
My first public appearance was at a fundraiser ... a contra dance sponsored by our local non-profit Education Foundation. Without much fanfare, I set up my dulcimer in the middle of the floor during "intermission". I played a few tunes. I don't think many folks paid much attention. But Jim did. He happened to be assistant coach of my son's soccer team. As I was packing up he approached me and said, "I didn't know you played the hammered dulcimer! I play the fiddle. We should get together and play some music sometime." That's how Blue Moon Rising got started. The two of us invited two other friends and formed a band that played together for 10 + years.
So, use your imagination. Put yourself out there! You never know what it might lead to. And it might be just the thing to take your practice and playing to the next level.
PS ... This time of year, some venues are overrun with do-gooders, and I do mean that in the most positive way. Scout troops, Sunday school classes, amateur musicians :-) are all thinking about caroling and looking for ways to spread good cheer. Think about scheduling an appearance in January or February when entertainment is more scarce.