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Behind the Scenes

Bridgewater State hosts jazz and blues jam sessions open to all

Bridgewater State student Sean Every at a rehearsal.

Donald Running

Bridgewater State student Sean Every at a rehearsal.

The Bridgewater State University music department has been holding improvisational get-togethers for musicians to play in a friendly, informal setting.

“These music sessions offer a no-attitude, supportive environment where anyone can play and feel comfortable,” said Donald Running, the college’s director of bands and the organizer of the sessions.

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The midweek gatherings are aimed at attracting music majors, other students, and people from the community, according to Running, who is reaching out to encourage wider participation.

Running will lead a jazz session next Wednesday, with the focus shifting to blues music on March 20 and April 3. Previous installments included traditional Irish music and bluegrass; a session on West African drumming postponed by bad weather is being rescheduled later this spring.

“We cater to anyone who wants to come in and play,” Running said.

The sessions are held in One Park Avenue, a good-sized room in the university’s Rondileau Campus Center. The program supplies some equipment, including mikes, as well as snacks and drinks for refreshments.

“We want more community members, adults, night school students,” Running said of the program, which has been going on for four years and is still evolving.

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The blues sessions are led by veteran bluesman and audio engineer Chuck Ochs, who has led a half-dozen open-mike jams across the area. The East Bridgewater resident has a special interest in pre-World War II blues, Running said.

“He knows more about that than anybody I’ve ever spoken to,” he said.

Ochs, who plays the five-string banjo, blues mandolin, and autoharp in addition to electric and acoustic guitar, and also repairs instruments, says the blues sessions “change each time. You never know who will show up,” noting that they typically draw 20 to 25 people, though not all play.

“Each time there is one or two people who weren’t there before,’’ he said. “We do something different each session. Each musician gets to do his own thing.”

The sessions are stabilized by a couple of regular participants on drums and bass guitar — providing the essential rhythm section for playing the blues.

Ochs brings his electric guitar and amp, and a friend who plays the harmonica.

The drummer “is really good,” he said. “If I were forming a band, I’d call this guy up.”

Some students come by and do their homework. “Some are citizens who just drop in to listen,” Ochs said.

The music department’s chairman, Salil Sachdev, leads the African drumming sessions; the replacement date for the storm-delayed jam has yet to be set.

The next two months are especially busy ones for Bridgewater State’s music department, with its major ensembles holding their spring concerts.

The college’s Jazz Festival is scheduled for March 23, with the event running from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in Boyden Hall’s Horace Mann Auditorium.  

The Bridgewater State University Wind Ensemble will perform on April 9 at 8 p.m. in the Campus Center auditorium; and the Horace Mann Auditorium will host the Jazz Concert Band performing on April 23 at 8 p.m., the Choral Society spring concert on April 28 at 4 p.m., and the university’s world music trio Caravan on April 30 at 8 p.m.

All of the concerts are free and open to the public.

Robert Knox can be reached at rc.knox2@gmail.com.

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