Common Ground in an Unfamiliar Place

As you might have noticed from our many Facebook postings and photos, Fifth House Ensemble is currently participating in a year long residency at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.  Over the course of our 2 visits so far this year (September and November), we’ve led workshops and masterclasses, taught the DePauw University School of Music students our Music Can Tell A Story One-Shot! concert and coached them in rehearsal, performed at Starbucks, Almost Home, the Putnam Inn, the Putnam County Community Foundation, and the Greencastle Farmers’ Market, and we’ve spent a lot of time in the Putnam County community meeting community members, listening to and collecting their stories, and conducting interviews.  The below post was written be Eric Heidbreder, our bassoonist who we all fondly call Deuce, as he reflected on his trip to DePauw in early November. 

 

There’s a strange trait that I’ve noticed in myself and others throughout my short time here on the planet, and it’s an idea that doesn’t do much aside from limiting our potential.  The idea is that what WE do is different from what THEY do.  “We” and “they” can be substituted with many different words, but for the purposes of this post, let’s go with what I had originally thought before my trip to Putnam County, Indiana: The music community is vastly different than the agricultural community.  Because, you know, musicians sit around all day practicing, and the agricultural community still uses old, rickety tractors.  Huge difference, right?  It wasn’t until I got out into the community and started talking to people that I realized how similar we all are.

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It’s true, I spend a lot of time in a room of some sort with a bassoon in my hands, and sometimes I forgo a helping of calories or vitamins in order to squeeze in a couple more repetitions of the two-measure chunk in the Gavotte from the Pulcinella Suite that is coming up on an audition in a few weeks.  But why do I do that?  It’s not because I’m allergic to unfiltered air, it’s just the nature of how the music community functions in the present day.  If I want to be successful, I have to make sure that I can hold my own against anyone in the world when it comes to bassoon playing.  Thankfully, I find unparalleled fulfillment in music making, and don’t mind doing what has to be done in order to keep performing, teaching, and growing as a musician.

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It was cold and rainy at Cedar View Farm on the morning that I met Ron Sutherlin, and it was pretty early as well.  I had never interviewed anyone before, and Ron had never been interviewed, but our reluctance quickly vanished once things got going.  Ron gladly showed us around his farm, telling us about its history and the machines that are used.  Cedar View has been passed down from generation to generation, each child getting involved with the 4-H program, and taking up more work on the farm when ready.  The way Ron described it, it seemed like farming never felt like work to him, it was just what he loved doing.  That’s also how I feel about music…HEY!  That’s common ground in an unfamiliar place!

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When Ron started showing us all of the tractors and storage silos, I had no idea what I was in for.  The technology that is integrated with the newer model tractors that Ron showed us was incredible.  It was mind-blowing enough to get to sit in the seat of a giant machine that would be used as a part of a larger process of creating food and fuel for people around the country, but the fact that the driver’s seat felt similar to the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon added to the excitement.  Seriously, if you ever get a chance, look into it.  I can’t explain it all without writing one giant run-on sentence in all capital letters.  The technology brought up something that was very intriguing to me as a musician.  As higher and different demands were placed on the agricultural community, the individual members adapted.  Although some people resisted change, the ones who are thriving in the present day embraced it.

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To relate this back to music: When asked to do something new or different (not specifically relating to playing), what is the visceral response from a musician who has spent years studying and perfecting their beloved craft?  Chances are there will be some reluctance to change, but Ron, and the entirety of Putnam County, has inspired me to continue to embrace change and adapt for the future like my life depends on it…oh wait…

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An anecdote from Carole about our trip to Cedar View Farm:  While Ron was giving us a tour, he showed us two tractors.  One is generations old, and on the day new born Ron came home from the hospital, his dad took him up on this tractor and they took a picture.  The other tractor, a much newer model, to which Ron has made the multiple technological adaptations Deuce mentioned, was huge.  For evidence of it’s size, and the varying sizes of members of Team 5HE please check out the image above.  Yes, that’s Deuce and I standing next to the same tractor wheel.  

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