The Ancient Spirit

           Anyone involved with American fifing and drumming as long as this writer has often heard the term, "Ancient Spirit." You will, too. It has taken me many years to come up with a definition. One way of explaining it is through example:

        Over fifty years ago, when my age was measured in the single digits, I attended my first muster. During a jam session composed of hundreds of fifers and drummers on a field, I quickly learned that I didn't know very many of the tunes that were being played. I just stood there, bored, and contemplated going home. An "older" man of about thirty turned to me and said, "What would you like to play, son?" I responded, "Willie Weaver." He then waded into the crowd, stopped the music, and shouted at the top of his lungs, "A young fifer here wants to play 'Willie Weaver!'" 

        We did, and it was one of the proudest moments of my life, one that I remember vividly to this day. The same man also took the time to give me some advice. He said, "At a muster, it really doesn't matter if you know the song or not. Try to 'pick it up.' You may play a lot of wrong notes at first, but you will eventually learn it. No one will ever criticize you. We are all here to learn."

         As I reflect back to that most memorable incident in my life, I can only define the Ancient Spirit as the duty of a fifer or a drummer to pass on the historical music of America to the next generation.

(c)1999, E.W.Boyle

     P.S.  From time to time I meet someone who, when the discussion comes around to kids and learning to play, says, "I don't have the time to babysit." These people just don't get the idea; they don't get it at all! Funny thing is that they aren't usually that proficient themselves.

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