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Watch: Unique Make Music with Friends program sees significant growth

The monthly Make Music with Friends program at St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in Estevan is nearing its first anniversary, and the progress they've made so far is impressive.

ESTEVAN — The monthly Make Music with Friends program at St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in Estevan is nearing its first anniversary, and the progress they've made so far is impressive.

Anita Kjersem, who is a part of the fellowship committee at St. John the Baptist Parish, said they initiated this concept last winter and were impressed with how the idea turned out. 

"It is the result of efforts by a core group of local musicians who just wanted to get together with other like-minded people who love to play music on a casual level," Kjersem explained.

"There hasn't been anything like that … And I didn't know of anything that was going on at that level like this."

Make Music with Friends is open to the community and offers monthly jam sessions, which enable anyone who plays a musical instrument and likes meeting interesting people to get together and play along. Although it was designed as a drop-in program, almost all of the musicians have been attending every session, Kjersem said.

The first Make Music with Friends jam session was held in December 2021. The initial gathering started as an intimate group of approximately 20 people, however, it's now grown to over 80, with participating musicians playing guitars, keyboards, a saxophone, accordions and drums. In addition to the musicians, the jam sessions are attended by singers, dancers and their guests. Kjersem said everyone is welcome to join them to play, sing, dance or just watch the event.

"Everybody can come and enjoy the social atmosphere. It's open to all faiths and churches in Estevan and around," Kjersem said. "It's not a faith-based event. It's more on socializing, music, fellowship and just making friends."

Make Music with Friends is a unique opportunity to perform and watch others performing, play and sing along, enjoy some fine tunes and just have a good time with good people. The program attracts participants and guests not only from the Estevan area but also from many close and afar communities, including Bienfait, Roche Percee, Torquay, Lake Alma, Lampman and many others.

"We regularly get carloads of dancers from Weyburn, Wawota, Oxbow, Arcola, Yorkton, Melville, Regina coming in to visit, as well as Melita, Manitoba. We even had visitors this summer from Chilliwack, B.C., and Calgary, Alberta," Kjersem said.

"It's almost a tourist attraction to some degree. And it's become an outing for residents at Hill View Manor, Creighton Lodge and the Estevan Regional Nursing Home. They've also stopped in to enjoy some socializing and music, which they love, that's right up there on their number one list, with family members."

Kjersem added that sometimes SMILE Services, which helps residents of senior living facilities come for jam sessions, ends up making more than one trip to accommodate everyone willing to go for the event. Not only do the residents enjoy the activity, but their families appreciate such an opportunity as well.

The event is open to all ages, and Kjersem noted that they see slightly different crowds coming in depending on the season, as well as on which day they are hosting the event. If it's a weekend, they see more families with kids, and if it's a Monday afternoon, they usually have more retired people attending.

Musicians mostly play country classic hits, as well as many old tunes like German polkas and waltzes. Performers sit together and take turns playing. The co-ordinator develops a list of performances so that everyone knows when their turn is. Those who know the tune are welcome to play along. Musicians also take suggestions from guests.

"They bring their instruments, and we like a little bit of advance notice as to who's coming with what instruments because then we will reserve a space for them. It's at the front of the hall, and they all sit in, and they can all play every piece that is played, but specifically, our co-ordinator will give them time," Kjersem explained.

Light refreshments are provided for guests, which is often supported by local businesses. The St. John the Baptist Parish fellowship committee is very appreciative of it. Kjersem also thanked the parish itself for the support of the program.

"We have to thank Father [Sathiadas] Anthony, our pastor at St. John the Baptist Parish, for giving us his approval. Over the pandemic, we updated our hall and we're quite excited to show it off," Kjersem said. "[We also had] a lot of support from our pastoral assistant Connie Wheeler, she's another strong cheerleader for us."

The next jam sessions will take place on Nov. 7 and Dec. 5 at St. John the Baptist Parish Hall at 109 12th Avenue. from 1-4 p.m.

"We just continue to welcome any or all musicians who would like to join the jam session, there's no right or wrong or different level, just whatever they want to play," Kjersem said.

"The afternoon is fun, free and entertaining. Please come out and make music with friends."

The 2023 Make Music with Friends jam session dates will be announced through the Estevan Market Mall's bulletin board in weekly editions of the Mercury, on bulletin boards around town and in other sources.

For more information or to register call Kjersem at 306-421-7538. Drop-ins are also welcome, so just bring your instruments and come play, dance, sing or enjoy the day.