Open House Friday On the first Friday of every month, I indulge in a secret Chicago pleasure: I go by myself to the Open House Friday at the Old Town School of Folk Music. During Open House the school invites the public to participate in a sampling of jam sessions, song circles, square dancing (that's right, square dancing), and mini performances. If you play instruments (I pick banjo) it's a great way to get some practice, but honestly, I go there for one main reason: to get over myself and just sing some good old songs with strangers.
Open House is rich with the sincere, the communal, and the bizarre. I have found myself jamming out to "This Land Is Your Land" with musicians who are all younger than eight. I have joined a song circle where I crooned inaccurate harmonies to "Hey Jude," a song surprisingly conducive to banjo. During the December Open House, I actually performed a pretty nice ad-lib to "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Regardless of whether or not you play an instrument or sing well, Open House is an amazing thing. Just don't expect there to be a drop of "coolness" in the place: its beauty lies in its wholesome and earnest reminders of our own roots.