I went to Brazil for a month, a year after I began learning to play guitar. Fortunately, my hostel had a guitar for guests. Apparently, I was the first guest to play the guitar in quite awhile (I could tell from the smell when I took it out of the gig bag). Still I was able to tune the guitar, so I practiced playing the only songs I knew: “Amazing Grace”, “Brother John”, “London Bridge”, and “When the Saints go Marching In.” I tended to play in the lobby early in the morning or in a small secluded courtyard off the kitchen.
One morning, I was playing on some stairs in the lobby, when a native asked me to play. Over a dozen people were hanging out in the lobby, but I played and they clapped politely, then I asked another guest, a Brazilian male nurse to play, he had played in a band when he was younger. He could only remember one song, but it was an up-tempo folk-rock song that every Brazilian in the lobby recognized. He began playing and singing, then suddenly everyone else began singing along to this obviously meaningful tune. The music was transcendent.
I traveled from Salvador to Manus to Iguassu Falls to Rio de Janeiro by plane and in each airport, I met a guitarist willing to play for me as well as let me play his guitar. Again, guitars served as bridges in Brazil.
Finally, in Rio, I went to buy my own guitar. After a wonderful shopping experience, which I will tell you about some other time, I brought my made in Brazil Giannini GWNC1 nylon-string classical guitar back to hostel. Little did I know, but several of my housemates were guitarists. One was a singer-songwriter from England, who only played chords, but wrote original songs as good as those by Tori Amos or Jewel. She teared-up when she saw my guitar and played it more than me for the rest of the day (I helped her buy her own guitar a couple days later). Another housemate was twenty-something Israeli veteran, who had taken guitar lessons for most of his life. He could play anything. Unfortunately, he had quit and could not remember whole songs, just fragments. Another people in the hostel could play one or two songs or were exceptional singers. Even though we came from places as far apart as Holland, the USA, New Zealand, and Brazil, We had a great time sitting around listening to and singing with the other guitarists.
Then someone asked me to play, since it was my guitar. I should have said, “No.” But, I tried. First, I played, “Amazing Grace.” There was silence and someone condescendingly said, “Well, it’s a start.” Then, I played “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Suddenly, a lady started shouting, “Who dey, who dey think gonna beat them Saints!” She was a New Orleans native, and I was playing her hometown’s theme song less than two years after Hurricane Katrina hit. That was the first time my playing moved someone.
OK, so here is my question: What has been your best impromptu guitar experience?