Rock Star for a Day

The Ravages of RockLet’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.

You can see videos from the first Coffee Shop Jam here, and photos from the last one here.

Comments 6

  1. Aw, the Klein girl singing “The First Cut is the Deepest” is so adorable! It pleases me that you’re able to provide opportunities for these students. So few guitar teachers today would really make the effort to open up a program like this, so from guitar students everywhere, thanks. 🙂

    Now if only I can convince my teacher to do something like this…*plots*

  2. Rob-

    first let me say great site. I know that some of the materials on this site will help me in my contiuned study, and will be great for my students as well. Good job!

    I am actually trying to get a program like this open where I teach, the problem is I work in a studio, I’m not my own boss…and the powers that be are trying to shut it down?. Advice? I’ve pretty much decided that when I make enough to open my own studio, I will, but that could be as far as two years away, maybe longer depending on enrollment… I AM doing a CD though, my students that are learning lead, and even the ones learning mostly rhythm are doing a 12 bar blues CD. I’ve got my rhythm students playing the 12 bar blues and my lead students playing lead over them. I’ve got them paired off into the days I have them. They seem really excited about having a tangible momento of the semester’s progress. 🙂

  3. Hey Amanda,

    I’m glad you like the site! The key to the success of the coffee shop jam has been to find the right venue–the place we hold it, owned by a friend of mine, opens its doors on Sunday (normally it’s closed) so that we have the place to ourselves.

    Making CD’s with your students sounds like a great idea. I record individual students occasionally, but only when they compose their own material. I’m going to be teaching group lessons this winter, and I’m thinking having the students get together to record for a final project would be fun.

    Thanks for writing,


  4. Hi again Rob!

    I followed the link from your profile at ezFolk to your site and then to your blog here.

    Caffe Bella is pretty much “right around the corner” from where I live (call it 4 blocks or so).

    Small town, hm?


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