The other day Evan Hamilton DeSerio asked the CMX community on Facebook, whether anyone can bring an instrument to the CMX Summit West that he helps organize.
I loved the idea and agreed to help make it happen, under the condition that we make it a community event, aka let’s play easy songs that everyone can sing and dance along. Thus began the SAP Jam Band. It has been a blast for the musicians and the community, so much so that this year they closed the Bjoern Goerke, Back to the Future themed keynote with Johnny be Good.
Here are some tips on how to make your community Jam Band into a success:
- Post a call for musicians on a blog, like Matt Harding did the other day for Barcelona:
Community Volunteers wanted for the SAP HCP Jam Band @ TechEd in Barcelona
- Include a form for the interested parties to fill out. Encourage people to sign up, even if they only want to help out but not play or sing. Audience members in the know help make the whole event a success. It is OK for everyone to hang out during rehearsal so that they know what is coming.
- Create a group to coordinate the band and the music:
- Slack or SAP Jam for day to day coordination. Google docs for sheet music.
- Have one page that lists musicians and what instruments they are playing.
- Encourage people to bring their own gear, but have extra for people that walk up.
- Collect on a different page the songs that you want to and can play.
- You don’t need a big repertoire. 4-5 songs is fine. If people want an encore, you start your set again.
- Collect lyrics and sheet music to the songs. Have these printed out, so you can hand them out to people during rehearsal as well as for the audience during the performance.
- Set dates early for rehearsal and event, to make sure everyone is there.
- Have one rehearsal the night before, so that you have played the songs at least once.
- Set the tone:
- We are here to “Make music and bring people together to sing and dance”. Make it inclusive. No filters, no special skill or proficiency required.
- Have it at the end of the first day during happy hour or whatever you call it.
- Everyone has been inundated with information, sitting through presentation after presentation the whole day. Your band will be a welcome change and they will love to have a beer and sing and dance with you.
- Set up the right space:
- Talk to the folks that manage your event PA system. There may be a chance to use some of their equipment, which makes the event cheaper. You would only need to add a drum set, a couple of mics, may be an extra mixing table.
- You need funds for the event: PA, the instruments and a technician that makes you sound good, some drinks …
- Find a sponsor: “This Jam session sing-a-long brought to you by …”
- If you can, try to avoid to play on a stage. If the band is\ on the same level as the audience it makes it much easier for people to walk up to a microphone and join.
- Hide the bean bags. To my horror, one-year folks pulled up these bags, plunged into them with a beer in their hands, settled down with the expectations on their faces: “So, monkeys entertain us!”. The exact opposite of what you want the event to be.
- Encourage people to bring their instrument, even if it is only used in one song. Marilyn Pratt brought her flute for a lovely rendition of “Down Under”.
- Invite the audience to join in.
- If the band has trouble singing a song, but really want to, be open to call out to the audience that evening: We did: “Anyone out there AC/DC fan, who would like to sing “Highway to Hell?”. “I’m from Australia, let me try.” came the answer, and boy did he deliver. Or “We would need a female voice for “Walking on Sunshine.”. “My name is Katarina. I can do it.”. Wow, did she sound amazing, so much so, that people later came up to us and said: “You must have planted her.” She was that good. She is now a fixture in the band.
- Have extra instruments / mics for people to walk up and join :-)
One year we were setting up and SAP executive, Sam Yen walked by, saw us and asked: “What are you doing?”. “Setting up for for our jam .” — “I play guitar too.” –”Well, here is a guitar, join us!” And he did and he is now a pillar of the event, and one of the reasons the band made it to the keynote stage.
- Be flexible. The first year we played our set and were super happy that it worked out. Philippe walked up to me and asked whether he could use our instruments. Of course he could, so he brought up an excellent guitarist and they played and sang: “Girl from Ipanema.” That was pure magic.
- Don’t forget to enjoy every moment of it. It is a lot of work to put it all together. Make sure to get full support from the community and the other band members.
Making music really brings people together. That joined journey of the band members and the support team that brings it all together, as well as the performance for and with the community really bonds us all together. The Jam Band was one of my best community accomplishments while I was at SAP. The cool thing is, it lives on and continues to thrive :-)
Some highlights in pictures from the last couple of years:
Don’t forget to take a band picture. Our first one ever. Missing some of the musicians :-(
Marilyn Pratt during rehearsal.
Girl from Ipanema performed by Philippe Rosset and friend.
Jam band crowd: People singing, dancing and having a good time.
The year Katarina Fischer 3rd from the right joined us to sing “Walking on Sunshine.”