Jam sessions target grown-up rockers
August 20, 2007
Many guitarists and drummers in the garage bands of yesteryear probably own houses with three-car garages these days but still find they have neither the space nor the time to pursue their musical love.
Doug Robertson and Mike Manning bet there are enough of those frustrated veteran musicians around Reno and Sparks to support a new business that will bring musicians together for once-a-week organized jam sessions.
Manning, the proprietor of Sparks Music & Learning Center, and Robertson, a music producer who owns Nostrebor Music, last week began signing up musicians for the program they’ve dubbed “Crossroads.”
Here’s how it will work:
Musicians, who pay $65 a month, get together once a week at a practice facility operated by Sparks Music at Vista and Baring boulevards. Along with the space, Manning’s music store provides instruments.
Robertson, meanwhile, will provide some musical direction, including suggested songs for the musicians to practice during the 90-minute sessions on Wednesday nights.
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The musicians will take the music home for more practice, and performances for family and friends will be scheduled every few weeks.
“Most of these people have careers and families and don’t really have the time or the inclination to form a band and pitch venues for gigs,” Robertson says.
Along with guitarists and drummers, Manning and Robertson expect to see participation from keyboardists, vocalists and other musicians as the program grows. Initially, they have modest expectations.
“I would be happy to see 10 people the first night,” says Robertson.
The Crossroads program, Manning says, is a natural outgrowth of his company’s decision to focus on music instruction as a way to carve out a niche in the crowded field of music retailing.
Since it was launched three years ago, Sparks Music Center has expanded into two neighboring spaces in a neighborhood shopping center, adding more private rooms for teaching to meet a growing demand.
The larger practice area to be used by the Crossroads program as well as a new dance studio occupy space in across a parking lot from the store’s original location.
A one-time professional musician who returned to the University of Nevada, Reno, to get a degree in music instruction, Manning heard that California retailers had begun organizing sessions for veteran musicians.
He began kicking around the idea with Robertson, a friend of two decades, about a month ago, and the pair moved quickly.
“The challenge will be getting people to come out,” says Robertson. “We really have no idea whether it is going to be a success.”
If the program flies, the organizers say they might add more nights and more locations to the schedule.
An equally big challenge, Robertson says, is trying to figure out what kind of music participants might want. He’s looking for tunes with vocal or rhythmic challenges that aren’t so daunting that they’ll discourage participants. Early selections, he said, include songs from The Beatles, Crosby Stills & Nash and the Moody Blues.
And Robertson, whose other interests in the music business include the bands Doug Robertson & Company and Max Yasgur’s Farm, acknowledges a secondary agenda with the Crossroads program.
With any luck, the promoter says, he might find musicians to launch yet another band to play bars and other venues around town.