Community Skill Building for Solstice

Part of the reason the Bay solstice-program is setup up roughly the same way each year is because doing anything different requires a bunch of skills our community doesn’t have much access to.

Building new skills (among enough community folk to reliably have it available for solstice) takes awhile.

I spent a couple years deliberately trying to get people excited about and level up at improvisational singing. I think this hit a threshold of “reasonably paid off” by Summer Solstice of 2021, where at the climax the drum circle included a fair amount of freeform songs.

I very briefly had tried to also have events focused on people learning to play instruments in a way that let them pick up new music quickly. I think I only did that once, but meanwhile I have some sense of there’s more latent instrumentation skill lying around for unrelated reasons?

I’ve observed Choir growing in skill at various facets of Being A Choir (which includes technical/​logistics)

Some other things I think it might be good to invest longterm cultivation of in the community:

1. Oratory. Giving speeches really well, with passion, internalizing them enough that you don’t have to be reading off a script and can instead be looking/​engaging more with the other attendees

2. Dancing. Partly for summer solstice, partly because I feel like the true idealized winter-solstice-for-ray would have some organic dancing towards the end, leaving people feeling excited and energized. If you tried this right now, it’d fall super flat.

It kinda worked at 2018 Summer Solstice but I think the people who brought the most energy to it kinda… left?

3. Songleading – not just performing songs but engaging the audience with them in various subtle ways, sticking to consistent melody/​rhythm (I know I’m guilty of failing at this ), maybe doing the Pete Seeger thing of briefly stating the gist of each line before singing it properly

4. Epistemics/​big-picture-thinking/​ritual-integration. Or, the skill that goes into writing good Solstice speeches. (“epistemics” is maybe the one skill the community actually collectively trains at least sort of on purpose, but I think connecting it into stories that are personal/​big-picture/​meaningful is a bit of a separate skill)

It’s sorta okay if only the lead organizer has the skill, but then that means that they need to write all the speeches, which misses out on something nice where Solstice feels like a thing that multiple people contributed to rather than one person’s creative project.

5. Songwriting. I think this is hitting diminishing returns, or at least not as a big a bottleneck. But it’s still the case that solstices songs need to have all of a) reasonable-ish lyrics, which b) make sense for the part of the arc that the song is trying to fit into, c) have the right energy for the part of the arc the song is trying to fit into d) be an appropriate singing-difficulty for the part of the arc it’s trying to fit into (early songs need to be easier)… that there’s still not a lot of degrees of freedom in song choice.

I don’t think we need tons of new songs, but having competent songwriters who can find/​write/​fine-tune exactly the right song for a timeslot still seems good to have on the margin

6. Other Randomass Ritual Stuff (like, guided meditations, or things I can’t think of right now). I have a nagging sense that we’re supposed to do more than just sing songs and listen to speeches, but the other things I’ve seen tried at big solstice usually didn’t work well. (But, some of them did, so there’s clearly some kind of art here)


For learning new skills, some majorly important things are having low stakes place to practice the skill, and low stakes places to use the skill in a way that feels like it pays off.