The National Music Centre is now offering jam club, a safe space for teenagers to learn, play musical instruments, and make new friends.
Jam club runs every Thursday from 3-5 p.m. in the King Eddy side of Studio Bell, on the fourth floor.
“People come in, grab an instrument of their choice and they just kind of start off by finding a little corner and just get familiar and warmed up,” says Jason Valleau, the program coordinator at Studio Bell.
“Not everybody has an instrument to play, so this is a place for everybody to come and play some instruments.”
There is food for the participants every week, and once a month, Gruman’s provides a hot meal.
The club offers an array of instruments, musical clinicians, and practice space for youth aged 13-19.
“Essentially we just want to offer a safe space for youth,” says Chad Schroter-Gillespie, a manager of the club.
“It’s a place for them to go after school where they’re not getting caught up in maybe activities that aren’t ideal for their well-being.”
Many of the youth that come into the club have no prior musical experience, but that isn’t a requirement for jam club.
“I didn’t know I could sing,” explains Tycen Robinson, 19, a member of jam club.
“They introduced me to a talent I didn’t know I had.”
Robinson has recently enjoyed singing Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd at jam club last week.
“One of them was like ‘hey lets make this more reggae’, so they started playing the reggae version and I started singing it reggae,” laughs Robinson.
“It was just so fun.”
This week, Robinson sang Simple Man with one of the volunteer clinicians who also started to teach him how to play the guitar part to go with it, an instrument Robinson has never played before.
“The coolest thing about jam club is that kids will come in at the beginning of the year and some of them are so shy that they won’t even talk to anyone, they don’t even play an instrument,” says Schroter-Gillespie.
“By the end of the year, they’re getting up on stage and performing in front of an audience.
“For us, I think that’s the most inspiring thing to see that progress and to see it have such a positive impact on their life.”
Ember Bland, a member of jam club, says that the club is a “breath of fresh air” in comparison the jazz and concert bands she’s a part of.
“It’s just nice to sit down and play instruments with people without the stress of having to learn sheet music or practice for a performance,” she expresses.
“You’re there to have a good time, and I find it a nice break from rehearsals in larger groups.”
The jam club wouldn’t be possible without help from committed volunteer clinicians, guitar technicians, and private funding from the Canadian Western Bank.
“They come from different musical backgrounds, and different skill-levels, so they kind of match-up with the students so that they can best fit their needs,” says Schroter-Gillespie.
“We also have had some professional clinicians come in, we’ve had some of the best musicians in the area and so they can deal with students that have advanced ability.”
Despite the long transit journey to get to the music centre, Bland comes to jam club every week.
“When I first came in they were doing a group jam that day, I sat down, was handed some drumsticks and we played a couple of songs together,” she reminisces.
“Some people were helping out with the chords while I kept a steady beat, some already knew the chords to Riptide so it went really well considering none of us knew each other beforehand.”
Jam club is one of the many programs offered by the new National Music Centre.
When asked what jam club is all about, Robinson replies, jammin’.