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Attention, musicians: The jam is set for Saturday, Aug. 11, 5:15 - 7:15 p.m. at the Legacy Stage, on Abbot Road (next to Dublin Square).
Old-time music jam sessions are events where individuals come together to play a variety of acoustic instruments, including fiddle (perhaps the most essential instrument of a jam), guitar, banjo, mandolin, upright bass, harmonica, and ukulele. The sessions are generally free and open to the public. Typically these sessions have no "audience", the audience is actually the participants themselves.
Throughout North America, old-time jam sessions take place all year long, although they are particularly prevalent in the summer months when musicians travel to large music festivals to share music with friends and strangers alike. Musicians find out about when and where these sessions take place through word of mouth (although increasingly they can also be found through internet searches and on websites like www.folkjam.com).
Like many other musical traditions that are maintained orally/aurally, these sessions are one of the central and indispensable ways that musicians learn instrumental styles and build their knowledge of the repertories. Many groups welcome all skill levels as musicians learn the music "by ear" and "on the fly," an arrangement facilitated by the musical repetition built into most of the tunes.
The musical repertoires performed at these sessions are also maintained through oral/aural tradition. The repertoires shift over the years as musicians come and go, as new tunes are composed and older tunes come in and go out of fashion, and as new generations of instrumentalists emerge. The core of the repertoire, however, consists of southern Appalachian fiddle tunes but may also include square dance music, East Coast contra-dance music, Irish fiddle tunes, and any number of regionally or culturally defined musical repertoires.
The music performed at Michigan jam sessions reflects the region’s unique geography and ethnic make-up. In the Lansing/East Lansing area the Pretty Shaky String Band (so named because the membership is constantly shifting and unstable, thus "shaky") has been hosting floating old time jam sessions for many years. In 2009 an old-time jam session was started at the MSU Residential College of Arts and Humanities (RCAH) in collaboration with the MSU College of Music (COM) and the Community Music School (CMS). The old-time jam session at the Great Lakes Folk Festival is a collaboration of RCAH, COM, and CMS with the MSU Museum.