I'm a honky-tonk pop piano player with some jazz chops.  I'm not a violinist but I can play a few fiddle tunes.  I play vintage jazz on cornet/trumpet and baritone.  I also play guitar (acoustic/electric/12 string), guitalele, piano accordion, melodica, harmonicas, 5 string banjo, tenor banjo (jazz tuning), and a little clarinet. My wife Deborah plays tenor uke, banjolele and mando-uke, and remembers lyrics much better than I do.  A good descriptor for what I enjoy doing is "campfire jazz".

I played the lounge and bar circuit in western Canada in my twenties.  In more recent decades I've gigged at pubs and casinos in Ontario. I've played in concert bands and an eighteen piece big band reading note charts, and in smaller jazz  and country combos that use chord charts.  I've organized British Pub Night sing-alongs, Pirate Day songs for sailors and their children, Oktoberfest dances and Talent Nights.  I read scores, but I also chord by ear, improvise lead breaks and sing improvised harmonies.  I sing, and I harmonize by ear, on the fly.   I have a tiny collection of youtube video samples

       My joy over the past year has been to organize sessions for musicians and singers at local community centres, with common charts projected on the wall. 
Deborah runs the laptop and projector for us.  We have a Monday afternoon "vintage jazz" group and a Tuesday evening Sing Along group.  Our Wednesday evening all-instruments Play Along has had up to sixteen participants, lots of guitar players backed by bass, keyboard, hand percussion and electronic drums.  For about five years I've played in a seven piece jazz combo that does occasional retirement home gigs.  We've recently initiated a weekly music party on Sunday afternoons for "Canadian↔Appalachian fiddle plus bluegrass, "newgrass", Cajun and early Caribbean".  An a capella campfire harmony group is back of mind for some point in the future.  So we keep busy.  One satisfying aspect of this musical life is that we get to explore and play many songs that are not the usual 70's bar fare.  In any given week we'll do songs from 1855 or earlier right up to the current decade.


            My musical efforts took an interesting turn as I got older.  I don't like late nights and commuting any more, lugging equipment to gigs.  I began going out to play nearby open mics with a younger friend but quickly realized that I was providing a free service for bar owners who pay all their other employees but not the musicians: not a free drink, or a meal, or even their parking costs.  I played to rooms full of shouting bar patrons who force you to crank up your amps and sing through a p.a. to be heard in a room with a capacity crowd of no more than sixty.  At my community Play Along I can sing while a dozen musicians are playing, and I can be heard without a p.a.  At the open mics, I dragged my thousand dollar keyboard to each venue and set it up to do just a handful of songs for them, and then the open mic organizer expected me to leave it set up for other players to use, to knock over, or to spill their beer on.  At another venue, a girl leapt on stage and shoved her tiny phone in my face to chord for her from a very bad arrangement that didn't match what she wanted to sing, to accompany her for three minutes of joy singing in public, karaoke-style.  In a different key.   I had to transpose on the fly.  This was considered normal and acceptable by the open mic organizer.  I felt exploited.  Like many older musicians, I don't drink, especially when I play; but bar owners expect open mic musicians to draw in their friends to buy drinks, and to create a party atmosphere that will encourage other customers to stay and buy drinks.  Open mic musicians are, in effect, "animators" like the ones employed at resorts and on cruise ships; but they are expected to perform the same function without being paid.  To me that's just bizarre, and profoundly dissatisfying.
            In casting about for a more satisfying solution, I started organizing groups of musicians to rehearse and play down at the yacht club, and then a ukulele group that ran for a few years in a private home, and a guitar group that we ran at the yacht club which migrated a year later to someone else's home for a few years.   Finally I discovered that community centre managers are eager to find people who can organize community programming.  The facilities provide free space, and sometimes free equipment for our use. Birchmount Community Centre, for example, provides us with a really good keyboard and a projector.  
Musicians responded to my invitation, and in effect, the musicians are their own appreciative audience, which satisfies our mutual craving for recognition.  And we get home to bed at a reasonable hour.  For all of this, I happily organize and play for free.  I'll play for free in a park, or for charity, for school fundraisers, for nursing home and hospital audiences.  Those venues make me feel appreciated, and they are listeners who are grateful that you brought your music to them.