You shared some of the concerns that have pretty much driven me from the
microphone. What a shame.
I began calling in 1981, after dancing and playing for two years. I began
calling as part of the music curriculum at a psychiatric hospital. Little did
I know how things would turn out.
I began as a "Mr. Microphone", like many of us have. This didn't last long.
Bill Alkire set me straight a few years later. He got me to think of my
role as a recreation leader. This changed my whole outlook about calling.
I have only called one gig to recorded music...and hated it! Oh, I taught
some classes to recorded music, by often had at least a fiddler play along.
There are many gigs that I turned down because they would not pay for a band.
I look at a dance as a three-legged stool. The legs are caller, band, and
dancers. The "legs" have to be even for the dance to work best for everyone.
I early on chose to work with mostly beginning dancers as everyone else
wanted to call for "real" dancers. Feedback showed me that my teaching and
calling styles were easy to follow and friendly.
Most of the bands I've worked with have been able and fun to work with.
Some were nationally known..some were beginner bands. When possible, I contact
a new band prior to the dance to make sure that we will be on the same page.
I worked with a few bands who needed little guidance from me, since we knew
each other so well.
I've been out-of-the-loop for a few years. The changes in many contra dance
series seemed to lose the sense of "community" I used to feel. It ceased to
be fun. I cut down my calling to a monthly family dance and the occasional
I now live on an island that doesn't have much music or dancing. The local
band is great fun, but I hipe to have them learn some of the tunes I am used
So, the caller is still the "conductor" of the evening. The band may have
its preferences, but they are not more important than helping the dancers to
have a grea time.
John B. Freeman
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