There was a lot of fun and enthusiasm on a Sunday afternoon in November when more than a couple dozen jammers played their fiddle, acoustic guitar, upright bass, mandolin and banjos at the local Southwest Conservation Club on Bluffton Road.
“Gathering monthly, informal bluegrass jams have been happening here for the past 5-6 years, every third Sunday of the month (except in December),” said President of the Northern Indiana Bluegrass Association, James Winger.
The tradition of bluegrass music comes from the Appalachian and mountain folk who worked hard days and relaxed by getting together to play music. This pickin’ scene’s music included love, loss, hardship, survival and faith. Familiar tunes like, Your Cheatin’ Heart, Wabash Cannonball, How Great Thou Art and I Saw the Light rattled the newly constructed SWCC. And as the afternoon went on, and more musicians joined, you could even hear them singing 3-part harmony.
While you think you may not like Bluegrass music, this group could possibly change your mind. The jam sessions at the Club are casual, acoustic performances by locals, but rest assured you will hear exceptional music. There were amazing instrumental components, beautiful harmonies and touching messages. Everyone, including the on-lookers, were singing along. “When you get bit by bluegrass, it’s hard to shake,” said a listener.
Experienced and neophyte players, were inspired and learned from one another as they rendered traditional, modern and even unexpected tunes. Bluegrass players typically make it up as they play; no one is putting a sheet of music in front of them. You could hear someone calling out the key, then the chords of the tune, teaching them to the group before the tune started. In a few licks, they got the hang of it.
“Making it sound as though they all had played and practiced together,” said Pres. Winger, “many have just met today.” Sharing their love for the music, sixty to seventy percent of the musicians come from Allen County, but several also travel from Finley, Ohio, Valparaiso, Kokomo and even Michigan.
Bluegrass fans can also just come to listen. “It’s a laid-back environment at the jam session, with a full kitchen, including popcorn, pop and water being served,” said Sally behind the bar.
This is not some kid with no teeth playing a banjo! The general public has no idea the music these players can produce. Fans and listeners, young and old, come for the music and come back for the camaraderie. Next Bluegrass Jam Session will happen on Sunday, January 21, 2018. The event starts whenever the first jammer appears; on this day, they walked through the door around noon. And, they have been known to continue strummin’ into the evening.