It could safely be said that I have a bit of an unfriendly relationship with rules. If I want to be sure that I won’t do something, one of the best ways to create insurance is to make a rule saying that I must. I’ve learned that one way around this is to make rules that are fun. For example, I only play music with people I can eat with. This has come about quite naturally to me, as many of my band-mates can attest, but it was through my percussionist friend, Mario Allende, that it first became a full-blown philosophy. We’d usually share something before rehearsal, even if it was just a cup of tea or a glass of freshly juiced produce (we both had juicers and were on a kick!). Honestly, I think it was one of the reasons we got along so well.
I learned a lot from him in those moments; we had great conversations about music and culture, or sometimes he’d give me his opinions about playing in the ensemble we were both part of. He’d share ideas he had about what we were doing, about what he thought worked and what didn’t – things that were really good to know. Since he wasn’t always giving rave reviews, it was great that we were able to talk in a casual, friendly way that never seemed loaded or confrontational. What strikes me now as especially interesting is that we never drank alcohol, yet there was an easy camaraderie about these conversations (then again, maybe that’s a reason why we actually communicated well!).
Mario specializes in Cuban music and I had often heard him say, “some things are very important in other cultures that aren’t even on the radar here.” I wondered what he meant by that, but hadn’t gotten around to asking him to elaborate.
He also kept talking about a young violinist friend who had just moved to Canada from Cuba, saying he thought this person would be a great addition to our ensemble. We tried repeatedly to make time to meet, but with our schedules being what they were, I recall this taking several months. Finally, we agreed on a Sunday morning time, and I had just a couple of hours. As I got out of my car, guitar in hand, I saw Mario walking up the street with a bag of groceries. “Would you like some eggs, Holly?” he asked. Intuitively, I said yes, even though I had just eaten breakfast (full disclosure: second breakfast is my favourite meal of the day), and I secretly wondered why we would use our limited time together this way.
What my instincts taught me, and what Mario confirmed, is that playing music with others is like any other intimate relationship. It will inevitably bring about differences of opinion or even misunderstandings. If we’ve shared food together, there’s a greater chance we’ll see one another as a allies and be able to talk it out, instead of sweeping our problems under the carpet to cause problems later. On the other hand, people who won’t make time to eat together once in a while probably won’t take the time to understand another perspective. Other cultures seem to understand this better than we do here in Canada, where families sharing a meal is becoming increasingly uncommon.
After enjoying a delicious breakfast in Mario’s apartment, we came around to playing music in a leisurely way. As I remember it now, that morning didn’t seem rushed at all, even though we only had a short time. In the end, Mario’s friend and I didn’t end up playing together, but if we had, I know we would have been off to a good start.