In many ways this event has a very familiar format: an evening at the pub, 2-3 songs each, lots of variety. But there are some things that make this jam unique. Hosted by the award-winning student group Musicians at Ryerson (M@R), house instruments (guitar, ukulele, keyboard, bass, djembe) are provided to allow you to take part even if you don’t have an instrument. Despite having to compete with the background pub noise, there is a core group that is there to listen and especially to encourage any reticent or first-time participants.
In addition to the open mic, the M@R team has hosted free guitar and ukulele workshops , open outdoor jams, a darkness concert, battle of the bands and campus concerts. There is a directory to help students find musical collaborators. When a musician leaves home for university, they may be leaving behind their choir, their band or their friends they can count on for a jam. Affectionately called “Ryerson’s unofficial music program”, M@R has created a musical home away from home where people can connect through music.
Thank you to the M@R crew for sharing their talent and for making me feel so welcome!
[Ram in the Rye, 63 Gould Street, Wednesdays 8-11pm, no cover, licensed – Check FB page for updates]
After visiting the Corktown Uke Jam in December, I thought I’d follow up with another ukulele event, a little closer to home. Since the fall of 2009, Heather Katz and Michael Griffin have hosted a Sunday afternoon ukulele workshop and jam at their music store in Orangeville. While both events share an enthusiasm for the diminutive instrument, the Orangeville jam has a much more laid back feel than its larger Toronto cousin. Heather led us through a song as a group before inviting individuals to share or lead songs they have been working on. And there was time at the break to peruse a selection of ukuleles, trade tips with other participants, or have some refreshments. This is a great place to learn about ukuleles and uke-playing in a relaxed but music focussed atmosphere. I have to admit that I left there with a new ukulele of my own. Now I’m looking forward to the strum along when “The Mighty Uke” visits Elora on January 30th (email me if you want details on this event).
[Orangeville Uke Jam, 232 Broadway, Orangeville, 2nd Sunday, 2-4pm, most months]
For 21 years Eaglewood Folk Festival has been bringing together music lovers and performers – and knows that they are often one and the same. At the end of August, a campground in the hamlet of Pefferlaw, Ontario, is the site of 2 ½ days of folk music. Eaglewood vision of “folk music” is very inclusive, including singer-songwriters, bluegrass bands, political satirists and world music.
But why write about a festival in a blog about open stages? Eaglewood also understands that folk music has an essential participatory element: songs of celebration, of protest, family singalongs, choruses that everyone can join in on. In addition to the thriving campfire jams that come alive at night, Eaglewood includes an open stage in its daytime programme to allow festival patrons to share and showcase their own music. This tradition is as old as the festival itself. Arthur Renwick hosted Saturday’s event which attracted 17 different players and singers to the little stage in the woods. We were treated to original compositions and covers and – best of all – impromptu collaboration. Magic amid the trees.
The ukulele workshop on Sunday furthered the cause of open music spaces. Host David Newland reinforced the importance of making music accessible to people and providing public places for sharing music. He challenges us all to ignore the voice that says we aren’t musicians and to explore ways to express the music we have in us.
So, as the summer draws to a close, festivals and campfires are done, I invite each of you to find a song circle, open mic, or jam where you can carry on sharing music through the winter. And maybe we’ll see you next year at Eaglewood.