Sounds of South Appalachia ring out in Snyder Hall
The notes of folk music fill the air as MSU students, professors and staff hustle and bustle around Snyder Hall on Tuesday evenings.
Associate professor of ethnomusicology in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities Chris Scales initially started the open jam session five years ago after a collaboration between the Community Music School and RCAH formed.
The collaboration allowed Scales and other instructors at MSU to teach lessons in fiddle, bongo and guitar to students and community members upstairs in RCAH just before the jam sessions begin downstairs.
Scales directs the folk group to play Southern Appalachian music, which is naturally played in large jam sessions without direction.
Aural traditions don’t follow printed music or instruction, but rather encourage musicians to play by ear using a sense of hearing.
Instructor at the Community Music School John Hatton describes how the jam session is a different place from anywhere else in the college, encouraging musicians to add their own personality to the music.
“Even oral music still has the words in front of you,” Hatton said. “The class can’t embellish or improvise the way they want to like you can with aural.”
Hatton sees similarities that the jam session has to a recitation for a large biology or communications class.
“The lesson teaches the fundamentals, and the jam sessions teach how to put it all together in one piece,” Hatton said. “The goal of the lessons is to get good enough to play in the jam session.”
The community jam encourages students and community members, involved or not involved with the Community Music School or RCAH, to participate as much as their schedule will allow them.
“Students walk by and are interested in what they see, so they will run up to their rooms and grab their instruments and join the group,” Scales said.
The public location of the jam session, outside of Sparty’s in Snyder Hall, naturally creates an audience as residents and staff travel by.
New perspectives provided by the weekly rotating mixture of students, teachers and community members benefit the jam sessions.
Neuroscience junior Connor Hyde schedules time to listen to the group after eating dinner in the dining hall on Tuesday evenings.
“It’s nice to see a community come together and provide music for people,” Hyde said.
Hyde also finds a music to be a release after seven years of playing the electric guitar.
Hyde said he found it interesting that it wasn’t students coordinating the jam sessions.
“I think it would be great if some students got together and did something like this,” Hyde said.