Grinners are Important! 

By Julie Marquez.

When signing up new members in the Southwest Bluegrass Association booth, I always ask them what instrument they play.  If they’re a musician, they happily tell me.  But a lot of times, when I ask that question, I watch this new member slowly shrink, their shoulders slump, their heads go down, and in the smallest voice they say, “I don’t play an instrument.  I just listen.”  It’s the saddest thing you’ve ever seen.  So I tell them, “Oh, then you’re a grinner!  You know pickers pick music and grinners listen to it.  Their whole demeanor changes.  Their heads come up, their shoulders go back, the stand erect, and with the biggest grin, they say, “Ya!  I’m a grinner!”

I prefer being a grinner to being a musician, because, speaking for myself, learning to play an instrument takes a lot of time and energy, both of which I lack.  Plus musicians don’t like conversations while they’re picking.  I know, because several have given me dirty looks for talking too loud while they were picking. And being a grinner is easier than playing an instrument.  I’ve seen pickers break out in a sweat after picking.  All I have to do is just listen to the music, and it’s fun to be part of an audience.  Having an audience is also something the musicians like, so they appreciate having grinners come listen.

 Some grinners can tell when the pickers are playing instruments that are out of tune, in the wrong key, or their timing is off.  But a lot of grinners don’t know and don’t care when a musician is playing badly.  They like the sound of the instruments, and they want the pickers to just keep picking. Grinners don’t just listen.  They are very important to the Bluegrass music industry.  They spread the word about Bluegrass bands and festivals.  They buy lots of CDs and tapes.  And the go-to Bluegrass festivals.  Having enough grinners at a festival can make or break a festival.  Just ask a promoter.

So ginners don’t have to say, in a small voice, “I don’t play and instrument.  I just listen.”  No, grinners just say in your loudest voice, “I’M A GRINNER AND PROUD OF IT!’

Grinners are Important! This article was originally printed in The Bluegrass Soundboard, a bi-monthly newsletter published by the Southwest Bluegrass Association in April of 2002.  At that time, Julie Marquez was on the SWBA Board of Directors & she has spent many hours volunteering & working in the SWBA booth at festivals.

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