Let’s be frank. How many of us, given the choice, would really want to be rock stars? Sure, having people hock your nosehair on Ebay at $200 a strand might be fun for a while, but let Keith Richards’ face tell you what it’s like to rock long and hard.
But to be a rock star for a day? Who wouldn’t want that? On October 30th, about 25 of my students are going to perform in downtown Seattle for what I call the Coffee Shop Jam. They work hard on a song–really polish it–and then perform it for a great crowd. For many of my students, it’s the only time they’ve performed music outside their house.
When I started hosting Coffee Shop Jams two years ago, I knew they would motivate my students, but I had no idea they would be so popular. “You’ve got something magical going,” one of my students told me at a recent lesson. She’s also said that performing her song was the hardest thing she’s ever done.
Nor did I expect the audience’s reactions. The Jam is open to everyone, but most people who come are friends and family members of the performers. You can imagine what it might be like if you were invited to your friend’s performance of “Blowin’ in the Wind”–patiently waiting until your friend takes the stage, enduring all the untrained voices and fumbled chord changes. It sounds like a good Saturday Night Live skit.
It’s true that Atlantic Records has never sent a scout to a Coffee Shop Jam, and it’s unlikely they ever will; yet many audience members have told me that they’ve been touched by the beauty of the songs, and the passion and courage of my students.
For example, my girlfriend Christine invited one of her friends, Libby, to come to the last Coffee Shop Jam. They were sitting together when Gary took the stage to sing “Sweet Baby James” by James Taylor. Libby spent a good part of her college years in nightclubs–I don’t think she’s a big James Taylor fan. And yet, as Gary invited the audience to sing the final chorus, Christine turned to speak to her friend and saw a tear on her face.
When I created the Coffee Shop Jam, it was just a tool to motivate my students. It’s become so much more than that–a chance for my students not just to show off, but also to really inspire people through music.
And if rock stardom happens to occur, I just hope they remember to moisturize their face.