Students jam it out

Kaysea Thomas

Kent State is brimming with musical talent. On a campus where instrument-carting students are found in every residence hall and on every choice patch of grass, a group of musicians who meet weekly in Risman Plaza for a communal jam session are looking to unite this wide variety of on-campus musicians.

For two years, this ever-changing and ever-growing group of music lovers has been joining together for a circle — not only including drums, but also guitars, vocals, percussion and even more obscure instruments, like kazoos, banjos and ukuleles.

Generally lasting from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., the group tentatively meets on Tuesdays and attracts more and more onlookers and new participants during each session, said Amy Breedon, sophomore visual communication design major.

“This is a varied skill level kind of group,” said Breedon, a prominent member of the circle. “We have people who are just musical prodigies, and then we have people who come along, hula-hoop for a little while, hum along and clap.”

There are no prerequisites required to join; the circle includes people of all ages, majors and musical talent, and welcomes all types of music as well.

Following in the tradition of drum circles and spontaneous jams, the group does not predetermine the musical selection, and so the music a passerby may hear ranges from recognizable tunes to completely improvised music.

“We’ve had a lot of different circles where there’s been people twirling fire, dancing, singing backup vocals, singing crazy vocals [and] chanting,” said senior general studies major Matthew Beebe, one of the group’s founders.

Due to the diverse types of instruments included in the circle, different kinds of music are played as well.

“We discriminate against no certain genre,” said Breedon.

As an example, Breedon recalled having people “come along and just rap a song they’ve been working on in their head, and work that into the jam.”

This kind of spontaneity is encouraged.

“Every week I try to remember different lyrics that I like and sing them here at the circle,” said Beebe. “It’s like total freedom, so I don’t want to plan for it. It’s like with my band, I have everything structured; I know I do this four times, this five times, this whatever… out here, it’s just a free-for-all. Whatever I do, it doesn’t matter.”

While some look at the circle as a place for free expression, others look at it as a place to feel at home.

Breedon describes the circle members as being like family to her. She looks forward to their weekly meetings.

“I think of (the jam sessions) as therapeutic,” she said. “Once a week I can usually rely on something that will just make me so ecstatic and make me smile and leave me smiling for hours afterwards.”

While the group has grown each week, freshman biology major Annika Norton pointed out that she would like to see more than the “hippie” stereotype represented in the circle.

“I want to see everybody, more demographics,” Norton said.

The circle is always open to new people.

“Just join in anytime you want to, you know? Start yelling, ask for a drum, ask for an instrument,” Beebe said. “There’s always instruments sitting around, pick one up, or start dancing.”

While all current members of the circle hope the number of musicians involved will continue to grow in the future, Beebe brought the group’s original goal into perspective.

“The future is just music,” he said. “It’s always been about music, and that’s what we want to continue doing.”

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