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A late-night session at the Swannanoa gathering. Musicians include Chad Beauchaine, fiddle; Beanie O'Dell, fiddle; Jeanne Chirdon, banjo; Keith Carr, bouzouki and banjo; Henry Lebedinsky, guitar.

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What Does Music Mean To You?

What Does Music Mean To You?

A slow jam session with fidder Kevin Burke and guitarist Robin Bullock. hide caption

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Each year for the past four years, I've spent a week of my summer at a Celtic music camp, most recently at the Swannanoa Gathering in Asheville, N.C.  It's just about my favorite week of the year, and I've had some pretty good weeks this year.

One of the reasons it's so great is that I get to play guitar from 9 a.m. until roughly 2 a.m., with breaks for food and concerts by some of the best Irish and Scottish musicians in the world.

A late-night session at the Swannanoa gathering. Musicians include Chad Beauchaine, fiddle; Beanie O'Dell, fiddle; Jeanne Chirdon, banjo; Keith Carr, bouzouki and banjo; Henry Lebedinsky, guitar.

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Most of the year, as host of All Songs Considered, I'm a listener, an audience member and a passive participant.  But at Swannanoa, I play guitar with fiddlers, pipers, accordionists, banjo players, bouzouki (large lute) players, bodhran (Irish drum) players and other guitarists jamming on jigs, reels, hornpipes and an occasional waltz until my fingers can't take it anymore.

I love being in an audience and being transported by a great band, but there's nothing like playing music to carry me away.  I can't explain the difference between the two, and that's where I'd love this conversation to go.

What does music do for you as a listener? If you're a player, what does music do for you, and how is it different from merely listening?