Looking for jazz instrumentalists and vocalists to jam with? The OFA has you covered with an open Jazz Jam Session on Feb. 15.
By Gareth Anderson '19
When I came to Harvard four years ago, many of my first musical connections here were entirely serendipitous: I met a great jazz drummer in one music class my first year. I met an upright bassist after hearing about his work through a friend and even met some players at the Queen’s Head one Thursday night. After connecting with those musicians, we jammed, got to know one another and eventually played our own gig at the pub.
But sometimes as a jazz musician, it’s tough to make those first connections, to find musicians who fit your musical vibe and who you feel comfortable playing with. Fortunately, there's good news for jazz instrumentalists and vocalists. On Friday, Feb. 15, the Office for the Arts is hosting an open Jazz Jam Session 6-7:30 p.m. at 74 Mt. Auburn Street, and all undergraduate musicians – regardless of what level you play at – are invited (and yes, there is free pizza).
Mark Olson, director of the Harvard Band and Wind Ensemble, is excited for the event. “I hope this first session gives musicians a chance to meet and connect with other players,” he said. “I believe there are musicians on campus that do not have a regular opportunity to play music with others and hopefully this will help foster those opportunities.”
In addition to providing the space and the pizza for a fun night, leaders at the OFA will introduce students to a new jazz combo initiative that will provide students with more opportunities to play in jazz ensembles – and potentially with musicians they meet on Friday.
I asked Olson why events like the Jazz Jam Session are important for Harvard’s musical community. In answering, he expressed a similar sentiment to what I faced when first coming to Harvard. “For those who have been involved in music at the high school level, music was a big part of their life,” he said. “Now in college, if they do not continue playing music, I think they tend to lose a part of who they are and would feel they are missing something. [Harvard] has a community with lots of options, and we hope this program will fill the gap for many students who feel that something musically for them is missing.”
Many Harvard undergraduate jazz musicians are also excited for the jam session. Matthew Shaw '20, a musician in the Harvard Jazz Band, told me about the Harvard jazz community at large: “The Harvard jazz scene is a large and dynamic community which consists of a variety of instrumentalists and vocalists. The primary jazz performance groups on campus are the Harvard Monday and Sunday big bands. However, there are many other jazz musicians on campus who are not a part of these two groups but that are still engaged with the music.”
These are the musicians Shaw hopes will come out on Friday.
“A primary goal of the Jazz Jam Session is to connect musicians on campus with each other. Many jazz musicians at Harvard who aren't either formally studying music or already in ensembles may not know enough musicians to form their own group,” Shaw explained. “We hope that this event will be a way for musicians to get to know one another, to play with each other, and maybe to form their own jazz combos. Most importantly, this event is open to musicians of all levels. The only requirement is that you have an interest in jazz.”
So, if you have a craving for jazz this Friday evening and if you want to make some lost-lasting musical connections at Harvard, stop into the OFA – even if you don’t plan to play. And do not despair if you cannot make it this time. “We hope to continue to provide opportunities for musicians to come together to meet and play music together in jam sessions,” said Olson, “ and to form their own smaller combo to continue to play and explore jazz.”