As most of you know, an important part of HVBA’S outreach efforts is our twice-monthly open jam sessions, currently held at The Manor in Poughkeepsie on the first and third Wednesdays of every month. They provide a forum for players of every level, from beginners to old hands, to play together for a few hours in a relaxed, pressure-free atmosphere. Over the years, it has proven to be the means by which many current members first became aware of the organization.
It can be easy to overlook the importance of one person’s efforts in making the jams so successful. Peter Conklin has been the linchpin of the program, week after week, for years. It’s Peter who comes up with a “song of the week” for each session, which is then and posted on the website, including the key and, often, a link to a recording of the tune. It’s Peter who, during the “slow jam” first hour, goes over all the chords and demonstrates the tune. It’s Peter who helps beginning players over the tricky spots. And it’s Peter who coordinates the solos, giving tips on jam-session etiquette and making sure that everyone who wants to take a break gets his or her chance.
Importantly, Peter knows how to “read the room.” If a player is struggling with a break or losing track of the chords, he can subtly give assistance without interrupting the flow or making the person self-conscious. One measure of his success at this is the number of newcomers who return, week after week, growing noticeably in ability and self-confidence.
We shouldn’t overlook yet another important contribution Peter makes to the jams: his exceptional skills on his instrument. After the “slow jam” first hour, as the tempo and the complexity of the songs heat up, his mandolin breaks can be counted on to supply megawatts of energy to the session.
In short, successful jams don’t just magically happen on their own. We should all take a moment once in a while to appreciate all that Peter does.
Ed. Note: Read more about Peter from a 2015 article.