Mark Tamsula Gives Up
Old time musician, Mark Tamsula, prominent in the
Pittsburgh scene, has announced that he's giving up fiddling as of July
"I always found that if I brought my fiddle with me,
that I'd get a warm welcome wherever I went. That really sustained me
socially for a long time," says Tamsula, during an interview in his
home. "You give concerts, play at dances and in sessions, teach
lessons, and people come to see you through your playing. I've been
fortunate enough to receive a positive reaction from lots of people in our
community over the years. We all need that sort of thing on some level,
from some source. It doesn't have to be music, though."
When asked where he would get this positivity he's been
enjoying, now that he's leaving his music behind, Tamsula gave a wry grin
and replied, "rum cake."
Friends, students, and family members were sure this was
some sort of a joke, but the ex-fiddler elaborates:
"I was playing a gig at a seniors' meeting a few
years ago, and they often have desert at these sorts of events. This
particular group offered me a piece of rum cake, and it was the most
delicious dessert I've ever had. I spent the next couple years trying to
duplicate the recipe - there were some very strange, very high
alcoholic-content food items coming out of the kitchen for a while there,
I can tell you. Thanks to friends for helping me eat my way through those!
But eventually, I really got it right. I started bringing my rum cake to
potlucks, parties, jam sessions, anywhere people were gathering, and
everyone just loves it! I get a feeling of gratitude and belonging when
someone looks up after taking that first bite - it easily matches anything
I've experienced from people's reaction to my playing. And frankly, that
was a lot of work, keeping all those tunes in my head. So many sequences of
notes, goofy names, keys, tunings, and what for? I can buy a few
ingredients, spend a little time in the kitchen, and still get all the
benefits. It's time to move on."
Typically, those around Tamsula were shocked, but one
long-time friend commented, "I don't know. Years ago, we'd go to a
potluck, and Mark would show up with a package of bologne. I think this is
a real breakthrough for him. He's able to give something back, cook
something delicious, it's more meaningful than most people imagine. I used
to check in on him: 'what are you bringing to the party?' He'd say
something like 'Jello' and I'd say 'you'd better bring your fiddle!' So
now he's really moving forward. I joked when he finally hit that recipe
that he could leave his fiddle at home. I didn't expect him to actually do
it, but I think we should all be happy for him. He knows he has other ways
of being a part of his community, contributing something, that don't
involve dragging out the cake of rosin."
And what about Clifftop? It's just around the corner and
many are wondering what he's going to do. We put the question to him.
"I've got my van filled with pound cake, and I'm
working on the pecan syrup now!"