The 12th Annual Riverside Jam

Riverside Jam 2011 is now in the rear-view mirror, and I thought it would be fun to share some of the highlights of this years event, if only because it really does embody the spirit of sharing music.

A brief bit of background: RSJ started just over a decade ago when a bunch of college friends reconvened at an old band-mate’s wedding. Some genius in the group figured out that they didn’t have to wait decades — or till someone else got married — to play together again, and they organized another get-together, which became an annual event. Over the next few years, long-lost bandmates and college friends found their way “home” to the newly reunited group, and new friends and students joined in.

Every year, someone different hosts: So far, we’ve been in Connecticut, New Jersey (twice), Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota, Illinois (three times), Indiana, and Massachusetts (twice). My partner, David, has been involved in hosting four of the jams; I’ve co-hosted two here in the Berkshires, and  David is just about always the music director. Each event has its own venues, its own highlights, the occasional drama, hundreds of songs, and a lot of laughs. We’ve played at public parks, bars, schools, coffee houses, community centers, a blues joint, and this year — an alpaca farm (Think “Woolstock” complete with a little rain and mud.)  And our repertoire has gone from Elvis to Elvis, from jazz standards to three chord rock to progressive to R&B to metal and punk and every combination thereof.   

Here are some highlights of RSJ 2011, which involved about 25 musicians. Thanks again to Jeff and Helena for hosting and to Lily and John for the use of their alpaca farm! And thanks to John Reichert for the pictures.


Our rehearsal set-up.

RSJ is a chance to get to know new musicians. Greg’s musical partner Suzannah was new to the group this year, AND it was her first time playing with a full band, but she did a great job, especially on Pink Martini’s “Hey Eugene.” 


We didn’t have a huge audience, so we appreciated everyone who was listening. These guys were among the most attentive.

Rock and roll and go-carts… what more could a kid want? 

The young’uns joined in, too. Eric Brownstein did some great solos, and the guys contributed back-up animal sounds for “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” 

Michelle on cello, me on piano: Two classically trained gals, but you wouldn’t believe the soundtrack: We’re attempting to play along with Derek, Paul, and Ruben (the Space Jammers) (and Greg, too) on a heavy metal/progressive/rock original. 

Viewing the set-up from behind the stage. Jeff, Dan, Kyle, and Greg were the sound dudes who had to figure out how to connect all this stuff together and make it sound good. 

The treehouse: This was my vote for where to put the keyboard, but I was over-ruled. 

How many engineers does it take to put up a tarp? The rain wasn’t going to stop us, except for the hour or so it took to get everything protected and re-wired.

I always tell my students to get used to lousy pianos because you never know what you’ll have to play. This was at the impromptu jam in the hotel lobby — and this is what I had on hand.  We started with variations on the chords to Pachebel’s Canon, transposed to C because, man, those black notes are hard on an iPad!

Jamming in the hotel. What you DON’T see is a group of wedding guests, who came down to play cards and stayed to sing along. They ended THEIR part of the evening by walking out to the elevator singing the Sound of Music’s “Farewell, Goodbye, Auf Wiedersehn, Goodnight.” 

A little rain didn’t stop Woodstock, and it didn’t stop Woolstock, either.