Community makes music 

Squamish-based GrassRoots jam sessions provide outlet for musically-inclined

click to enlarge Sweet Strumming Jane Gillie and Rita Kyle perform at one of the monthly jam sessions
  • Sweet Strumming Jane Gillie and Rita Kyle perform at one of the monthly jam sessions

What: GrassRoots jam session

When: 1 st Sunday of each month, 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Where: Brackendale Art Gallery

Admission: Free

If you’re a closet musician, plucking away at the guitar or banging away on the drums in a soundproofed room in your house, breathe easy — you can come out of hiding, now. There’s actually a place where you can go and play amongst your music-loving peers: the GrassRoots jam sessions.

A vocalist primarily, Carolyn Grass also plays the guitar and percussion, and has lived in the area for almost 15 years. Over that time, she has seen the musical landscape in Squamish change and grow almost exponentially.

But almost four years ago, she and two fellow local musicians — Paul Coulter-Brown and Paul Borchert — recognized a real need for a venue to unite local musicians.

“We had just been performing at some sort of a venue, I think it might have been Copper and Fire… and we thought that it would be nice if there was some place that musicians could kind of get together and jam, and just kind of play together on a regular basis, if we had a place that we could do that,” Grass explained.

After a bit of brainstorming, they decided meeting once per month was a sufficient amount of time, and agreed that the ideal venue for their jam sessions would be the Brackendale Art Gallery (BAG). After getting in touch with Thor Froslev, the owner of BAG, the space was theirs to use on the first Sunday of each month, free of charge, and the GrassRoots jam sessions were born.

“Really, it’s been happening ever since.”

This coming weekend they’ll be celebrating four years of jam sessions, which act as a vehicle to help bring the musical community together.

During the jam sessions, the organizers usually arrange the seating so all of the musicians are in a circle in the centre, with an amp and mic. All of the instrumentation is acoustic.

“We take turns leading a song, so that one person will sing a song, and then we’ll pass the mic,” Grass explained. “So that one person will choose a song, whatever song they feel like doing, and then everyone else kind of jams along.”

Depending on how many musicians attend a session, each may get more than one turn.

Attendance varies from month to month, but it has grown significantly since they started out.

“Its interesting because it’s never the same,” she remarked. “When we first started, there was the three of us, I think.”

Their largest crowd has been about 30 people, with 17 musicians among the ranks.

“That was actually too many — it wasn’t that great,” Grass said. “It’s actually better when there’s fewer.”

But the evolution of the jam sessions is something Grass is really happy with.

“We’ve had all sorts of different musicians there, and its very inclusive,” she said.

People of all abilities and musical interests are welcome to come participate. And you don’t even have to be a musician to enjoy the jam sessions — music lovers and listeners are welcome to come by to enjoy the show, as well.

Now, Grass is hoping to continue the monthly jam session and is even toying with the idea of starting a more intermediate, invite-only jam session for more established local musicians who are looking to play with those at the same level of experience, though she has yet to iron out the details.

The next GrassRoots jam session, which will mark the fourth anniversary of the monthly meetings, will be held at BAG on Sunday, Sept. 7. starting at 7:30 p.m.


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