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Monthly jam session takes root in Marion

Staff writer

If you happen to wander by Marion Community Center and hear live music, don’t call the police. That is, unless it’s to invite them to play with the coterie of musicians who recently relocated their open jam circle to the ballroom there.

Guitarists Mike Moran and Galen Obermeyer, bassist Doug Kjellin, mandolin player Jim Versch, and fiddler Mark Wilcox are some of the usual suspects who rally at open jam sessions.

“The jam is open to anyone,” Obermeyer said. “The majority of music we play is with acoustic instruments, but more variety is nice. We are open to playing any type of music really. Sometimes I bring my electric guitar and we attempt a little rock.”

Musicians regularly dip into bluegrass, folk, and Irish tunes as well as classic rock anthems like “Hotel California” and “House of the Rising Sun.”

Along with about 10 other players, the group has been jamming together off and on in various incantations for several years.

The shift in location was a recent group decision to bring the jam to a centralized location in order to facilitate access to more musicians. There have been three jams at Marion Community Center so far, the most recent of which was Sunday afternoon.

The mood at the jam is casual. Musicians are welcome to bring any songs they’d like to play with others. However, players are asked to bring sheet music or be able to call out the chords so that others can follow along.

“We trade songs,” Moran said. “Doug will sing a few. Then Galen will or I will. Sometimes I just play my harmonica. We all love it.”

Some players also take turns improvising solos.

Moran said others are welcome to sing or just listen, too. He envisions an unthreatening atmosphere where people can play softly in the background until they get a feel for the music and become comfortable playing louder with the group.

Kjellin said he was a little intimidated when he started playing his bass with the group, because there are some talented players in the circle.

“I’ve got a bass but I’m not a bassist,” he said. “I picked up my bass again five years ago and started to plunk around. I am just competent enough to follow along and there’s no stress. It’s just fun.”

Like other members, Kjellin sees the jams as a release from a busy career, and as a “big arts person” he supports the arts whenever he can.

Accordingly, he went to a Marion Advancement Campaign board meeting and acquired permission for the group to use the ballroom.

Currently, there is no fee and no set schedule, but jams happen once a month, before which Moran sends out a group e-mail with event details to those who wish to receive one.

However, if interest increases, there is a possibility of meeting more often, Moran said.

The next jam will likely be March 31.

To receive notice of the jams, those interested in playing or attending can email Moran, at mike.moran@usd410.net.

“What I’d like to see is for us to get a core of musicians built up in the community,” Moran said. “It really is a good time.”

Last modified March 12, 2015

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