English musicians speak of sessions as events of an essentially egalitarian character. While expertise is celebrated within the English tradition, sessions are viewed ideally as meeting places for the like-minded, not sites for musical domination or personal display. This case study of instrumental music making at the Wednesday night sessions of the Red House public house, Sheffield, draws perspectives from the ethnomusicological literature on leadership in performance. After introducing the repertory and performance style of sessions, the article gives an ethnographic account of the interplay of musical authority on several levels: deference is made to particular individuals; shared experience (among regular players) of the session’s customary framework provides further order; and players’ musical decisions direct yet further interactions. A well ordered performance is finally a multi-level experience that turns as much on matters of musical prestige, authority and expertise as the publicly stated notions of fellowship and equality.