The Jam Offers Musical Experience for EC Youth

Lauren Fisher

Michael Rambo
Michael Rambo

Local musician Michael Rambo of CollECtive Choir has started up a new faith-based music program for Eau Claire youth. The Jam will take place Fridays at 3-5:30pm at The Lighthouse (310 E Madison St.) and offer a free, improvisational music session for people of junior high and high school age; religious affiliation or adherence is not required to join in. Rambo refers to the jam sessions as a “missional music program,” where he and other volunteers will provide a space for young people to make positive connections through music.

“A lot of the youth are steeped in a dog-eat-dog mentality,” Rambo said. He worries that kids are instilled with a retaliatory culture that self-perpetuates.

“Art requires a certain level of trust, to be vulnerable, and that’s why we wanted a jam spot as a platform to engage,” he said. “Not only do you have to know and be respectful of the others that are in the room – it’s not just chaos – but how can I make harmony with these people.”

“Art requires a certain level of trust, to be vulnerable, and that’s why we wanted a jam spot as a platform to engage.  Not only do you have to know and be respectful of the others that are in the room – it’s not just chaos – but how can I make harmony with these people.” – Michael Rambo, director of Collective Choir

Kids will be able to choose the direction of the jam sessions with guidance from mentors, who can teach guitar chords and piano riffs. Rambo says people can participate even if they have no musical experience, simply by clapping along.

For those who show aptitude and interest in music, The Jam will provide opportunities for performance or assistance in other parts of the musical community, such as CollECtive Choir. Forging these positive connections with the Chippewa Valley gives kids a chance to participate in relationships where they are givers as well as receivers. “Contribution is a different posture than just being poured into,” Rambo said.

While Rambo has had the idea for The Jam for several years, it wasn’t until this summer that all the pieces fell into place. The program received a grant from the Daniel F. and Margaret J. Brown Memorial Fund of the Eau Claire Community Foundation, allowing work to begin. In the past several weeks, Rambo has been accepting donations of musical instruments and preparing them for use, and working with local artist Francis Okonmah to procure graffiti-inspired decoration for the space.

Jam sessions are open Fridays from 3-5:30pm. All someone has to do is show up and give it a shot. While the group might start with easy-to-riff Green Day songs, Rambo hopes to encourage kids to tell their own stories through music as they become more comfortable. There might be opportunity for recording as the program develops.

Those with questions or who would like to donate an instrument to The Jam can contact Michael Rambo at mike@collectivechoir.org. More information is available at www.CollECtiveChoir.org.

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