Musicians at the first OpenJam were, from left, Maisen Claiborne, Ryan Fong, Rylan O'Keefe, Michael Campbell, Tom Bagley and Etienne Ozorak. (Click photo for larger image.)
Whether performing or listening, music is best enjoyed in groups, as Rancho Murieta discovered Sunday afternoon. The inaugural OpenJam concert at the Gazebo brought together a handful of people who’d never met before. They said hello, sat down and made music.
The heart of the group was four teens who are studying with guitar teacher Tom Bagley, who has been giving lessons in the community for a decade, retired after teaching music at St. John Vianney School.
Bagley asked his pupils if anyone would like to perform at the OpenJam, which was envisioned as an opportunity for any Murietan to come and make music. Four of the pupils volunteered – two bass players and two learning on standard six-string guitars.
The four: Maisen Claiborne, 14, who has been playing bass almost a year; Ryan Fong, 13, playing guitar for about two years; Rylan O’Keefe, 17, playing guitar for three years; and Michael Campbell, 13, who has been playing bass for less than a year.
Between sets, Bagley spoke about his pupils and emphasized the importance of any musician playing with other musicians and in front of people. “This group has never played not only with each other but with anybody,” he said.
The audience of 20, mostly friends and family, was supportive. Bagley led the group through some songs you’d recognize and some chord-based jams. After they finished “Black Magic Woman,” Larry Shelton, who organized OpenJam, yelled out “Santana!” “You recognized it!” Bagley yelled back.
There were moments of less-than-perfect music, and Bagley steered the group to open waters. There were stretches of very nice music.
A half-hour into the set, Etienne Ozorak, who had been watching quietly from the sidelines with his wife, Cheri, and dog, Quin, walked up with an accordion and took a spot on the stage.
As he explained later, Ozorak has been playing accordion for 50 years, including a professional international tour with rock musicians 20 years ago. He said he was happy to play a supporting role to the young, aspiring Murietans. Still, late in the first set, with Bagley urging his pupils to reduce the volume of their playing, the amplified music cleared away for a handful of bars and made room for an accordion solo, probably the first ever heard at the Gazebo.
“It’s a nice day for this,” Ozorak said later, quietly noodling an Irish jig on his accordion. Yes, it was.
The next OpenJam will be held 3 p.m. July 15 at the Gazebo. The next FreeRock, featuring Dr. Rock and the Stuff, will be held 5 p.m. Saturday at the Gazebo.