January 29, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 43°F

Life & Culture

Students gather biweekly to informally ‘Jammm’

On Friday nights, students carrying instruments of all sizes can be seen heading toward the James J. Whalen Center for Music, preparing for the music they will all soon create at a new event called “The Jammm.”

At this gathering, held every other Friday night from 8–midnight in Presser Hall in Whalen, students come together to play music with no rules. Sophomore and organizer Spenser Forwood said instruments and singers of all levels are welcome, as are all styles of music.

“It’s all over the place,” Forwood said. “That’s kind of what I like most about it. It’s very open-minded. Within one song, it can go from reggae, to crazy jazz-fusionand back.”

The instruments present vary from guitars, basses and drums, to saxophones, trumpets, violins and even singers and freestyle rappers.

“The Jammm” began when Forwood believed that the college’s Jazz Night, a weekly event allowing students to gather and play freestyle jazz, would be canceled with the closing of the TC Lounge.

“I said, ‘I still want to jam, everyone come to Presser, and we’ll play funk instead,’” Forwood said. “And then a decent amount of people showed up, and it was pretty fun.”

From there, Forwood decided to start holding “The Jammm” regularly with the help of junior Christopher Walsh and sophomore Kevin Thompson.

“We decided if we’re going to do it regularly, we might as well try to get some more interest in it,” Walsh said. “So we made a Facebook page for it, and it took off.”

Since then, “The Jammm” has grown even more. Its attendance has increased, and its Facebook page has reached over a hundred likes.

“In the start I was happy if 10 or 12 people showed up,” Forwood said. “And then the first week we did it this year there were like 25 people. And then the next two times I counted 30 people each time.”

“The Jammm” begins with a house band, generally consisting of the organizers and their friends, typically playing guitar, drums, bass and trumpet. This sets the tone for the nightby establishing a precedence for details like solo length and style. At 8:15 p.m., the floor is open and people signed up are randomly put together.

“We’ll have a sign-up on the board and people write their names down on the list for what instrument they play,” Walsh said. “We try to go down the list, and every time someone wants to switch out on a particular instrument, we just call out whoever’s next.”

Many of the people in attendance, like freshman Colby Daboul, feel this is a source of excitement and creativity.

“My favorite part is just showing up and not knowing who I’m going to play with, [and] just being able to play with new musicians every week,” Daboul said.

These random combinations result in most of the music being improvised. A couple of times a night, a recognizable standard can be heard, such as Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious.”

“We’ll just pick a key,” Walsh said. “The bass usually just starts playing a groovy bassline and then we just jump in. It’s a really open thing. There’s not usually a chord progression or anything. People will just call out a key and we start playing.”

This liberal structure leaves the organizers of “The Jammm” emphasizing how open it is to everyone interested. Walsh said it is very accepting of all skill levels.

“It’s not about coming and showing off and telling everyone you’re the best guitar player in the room,” Walsh said. “It’s more about everyone being friendly and listening to what everyone has to say musically.”

Though this event is a musical one, Walsh and Forwood emphasize that everyone is welcome. There are many chairs for listeners, as well as open space for dancing.

“I would love it if more people who don’t play instruments came,” Forwood said. “Then it’s more of like a community kind of thing and less of just of a musicians’ thing. It’s less esoteric.”

With a positive reception from the people in attendance, the organizers have intentions for “The Jammm” to continue all year.

“As long as there’s still interest, we’re still going to do it,” Forwood said.