Saturday’s first-year event boasts a day of workshops, exhibits, performances and a keynote address by Djangophonique’s Andrew Brown. Details and more at Local Spins.
Picking up the guitar at age 12, Sam Granger has long expressed his love for jam bands and “atmospheric stuff,” not to mention the fingerstyle tradition of innovators such as Django Reinhardt and contemporary players Justin King, Antoine DuFour and Andy McKee.
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But the Grand Rapids musician and Aquinas College alum also has long envisioned a way to share that passion to boost West Michigan’s music scene, with help from other like-minded guitarists.
That’s the impetus for this weekend’s inaugural Grand Rapids Guitar Festival, taking place on the campus for Special Olympics Michigan, 160 68th St. SW (site of the former South Christian High School).
Saturday’s day-long event will feature workshops, exhibits, performances, jam sessions and a keynote address by Djangophonique guitarist and frontman Andrew Brown, who’s also a member of The Appleseed Collective.
“I’d like to develop the festival into regular jam sessions and lessons throughout the year that help foster a culture of musical creativity, learning and improvisation,” Granger said.
“Whether you strum at home or play on stage, I wanted to get us together to play and learn together, because this scene really deserves to have its talent living and breathing.”
Granger, who released an album of fingerstyle tunes, “A Living Room Session,” in 2018 and who performs regularly at Grand Rapids’ Sacred Springs, encouraged everyone to attend and experience the festival – from novices who “still just play in their basements” to gigging musicians who grace area stages.
“We have workshops covering the hard skills of particular genres and techniques, as well as workshops covering the soft skills of creativity, rut-busting and the emotional dimension of music,” he told Local Spins.
“After such a long pandemic, we could really use a space where we can share music, learn and grow together as a community. Last year was so divisive in so many ways, and I find music a very healing force. Bringing your guitar out of the bedroom or the basement, playing some chords and plucking some notes with others is such a simple joy we’ve been lacking.”
WIDE-RANGING INSTRUCTION, HOPES FOR BOLSTERING THE CITY’S MUSIC SCENE
Workshop instructors include Granger, Elijah Russ of The Elijah Russ Collective, Travis Swanson of Earth Radio and The Deep Stare, Adam Marth of Groove Ground, Jonathan Marshall (organizer of the Grand Rapids Classical Guitar Competition), Jeremy Verwys and Emily Smith of West Michigan Music Therapy and Geoff Lamden of Sacred Springs.
Workshops will take place in the morning and afternoon; Brown wraps it up with a speech on “finding your inner voice within a tradition.”
Tickets currently are $50 in advance. Gigging musicians (IPLAYGIGS), students (IMINSCHOOL) and health care workers, public safety employees and veterans (HERETOHELP) can get a discount on tickets with those codes. Details here. The event includes lunch.
Special Olympics offered up its classrooms and auditorium for the event, and Granger said “we’re excited to give back to them music programming for their athletes and special needs kids in the community.”
Granger, who’s assembling a gypsy jazz/ambient music project titled Chartreuse Manouche with plans for a new album of originals, eventually hopes to expand the festival to draw attendees from outside the state.
“I want the festival to be a reliable advocate for how essential music is for mental, spiritual and even physical wellness,” he said.
“We have always had a vibrant music scene with great musicians. Unfortunately, we’ve often been the victims of our own success, losing great musicians and bands to Nashville, Austin, New York, Los Angeles. There’s no reason we couldn’t turn Grand Rapids into the music town it is.”
VIDEO: Andrew Brown’s Djangophonique, “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”
LISTEN: Sam Granger, “Sturm and Drang”
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