LUSELAND — The Jam Club is not a group that gathers to make preserves but it is something equally as enticing. It’s not the official School of Rock as depicted in the Jack Black movie but it’s very close to it.
In Luseland, a group of students ranging from Grade 7 to 12 get together to “jam” or play rock and roll music. The group has a full sound system and instruments include drums, piano, bass, guitars as well as other instrument additions. Students are put into groups of five or six, with the instructor, Chris Williamson, included. Groups then pick up to six songs and rehearse them.
The performances include solos, duos and trios, in addition to full group numbers. In late May or early June, the Jam Club plans to perform a big concert at the school with a repertoire of upwards of 30 songs. They play rock and pop music from all eras and they even include some country, folk and blues tunes.
Part of the success of the program is mixing the groups in terms of ages. Grade 7 students may be partnered with students in senior high, making for great mentorship opportunities.
Williamson, who leads the group, was instrumental in forming the club. He transferred to Luseland when Major school closed in 2014. He was part of a similar music program there for 15 years.
He started the club when he began teaching guitar over a decade and a half ago. While in Major, Williamson taught music during the day at the school. The club was formed to play for the fun.
In Luseland, Williamson is not teaching a music program so he created the idea of mixing some of the more seasoned Major “jam” students with a half dozen Luseland students who already play guitar, piano or percussion.
What happened next was a musical blend that could not have gone any smoother. Williamson says as the “jammers” keep playing together, they are getting more enthused about their progress heightening the anticipation for their big performance to come.
“It’s one of the highlights of my job, being able to offer this as extra-curricular and I am so impressed at the dedication to the program and practice time.”
Without wanting to boast, Williamson admits, “We sound pretty darn good overall and I like that the kids are picking some harder songs, so it offers its challenges that only makes the musicians even better.”
There is a huge bonus in Luseland to this program. One teacher at the school has knowledge about recording music and is currently teaching a class on this process. Greg Johnston says he plans to record some of the groups that are presently part of the Luseland Jam Club.
“The communications media class is focused on teaching students professional recording and mixing techniques. Using a digital interface and laptop computers, students learn how to record and process drums, guitars and vocals and create a finished product.”
He says the class is in its first year and the students have restored an old drum set, had the studio room made acoustically sound and purchased two new guitars and other needed equipment with funds donated by the credit union.
The class was added to the school’s practical and applied arts program as a tie in with the Jam Club.
The class consists of students in Grades 10 to 12. They are responsible for setting up all of the sound equipment for Jam Club performances in the gym. They will also be recording Jam Club members in the second half of this school year. Students will learn how to record and process drums, guitars and vocals into a finished product.
Luseland Credit Union donated $1,000 to the club and the recording studio with new equipment already in use. Barb and Vern Schiebelbein of Major donated speakers, monitors and a sound board.