BLUEGRASS JAMS IN THE
PA, NJ, DE & MD REGIONS
ETIQUETTE ED'S JAM NOTES
Edward I. Pollak, Ph.D.
Some of this information is a bit dated and some jams will miss specific dates due to holidays, change venues in the Summer or even stop meeting during the Summer festival season. NEVER attend a new jam without calling first to double check that itís still being held. If thereís no number to call, give me a call or e-mail and I might be able to get you some phone numbers. I encourage you to share this list via e-mail or hard copy with anyone you think might be interested.
SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION: The Mill Creek Bluegrass Band performs at Dugalís Inn, Strasburg Rd. in Mortonville PA (about 5 miles West of West Chester) every Tuesday night from 8-11 p.m. Call Dugalís at 610-486-8624 for directions.
Holmesburg (N.E. Phila.), PA. Bluegrass & Country Jam. Holmesburg (N.E. Phila.), PA. Bluegrass & Country Jam. Thursday nights 8-midnight. Contact Fred Moore 215-624-6614 or email@example.com. All levels of players are welcome. During the Summer this jam meets out of doors on the banks of the Delaware River. The outdoor jam continues through October or until Fred Moore's fingers are frozen, whichever comes first. During the Winter it meets at Nite Owls Tavern (215-333-6113) 7900 Frankford ve. This jam is a Philly institution and has been a continuous source of jamming opportunities for over 29 years!! As a result of venue changes and interest generated by its web site at http://www.icdc.com/~fmoore/ the jam is experiencing a bluegrass rejuvenation.
Pickin' In The Barn, Manchester, PA. Starting Wednesday Feb.2, 2000 Educational Music Services is sponsoring a bluegrass weekly bluegrass jam. From time to time they will showcase a group or individual to perform on stage. There will be a $2.00 cover to get in which will include refreshments. It will take place each Wednesday 6:30PM to 9:30PM. They are located at 60 Glen Dr. Manchester, PA on North George St. extended, behind the Rite Aid. Phone number 717-266-1012.
Meadowood Music Shop Jam. Tuesday nights from 6-9 p.m. They get somewhere between 5 and 15 players and would like to attract more. The address is 233 West Main Street, Kutztown, PA. Maps and directions are on the web site. http://meadowoodmusic.com
Full Circle Music Society. Regular jams on the 2nd Tuesday of every month at St. Johnís Lutheran Church in Mohnton, PA. from 6;30 p.m. to 10 or 11 p.m. Iíve not been to this one but itís more an "open circle" (as implied by the name of the group) than a jam session, i.e., folks take turns playing & singing although folks are invited to join with accompaniments. Music tends to be a mix of BG, Celtic and Folk. For directions call Steve Smith (610-944-7630), Debbie Bertoldi (610-777-0178), or Sandy & Paul Pluta (610-933-8493).
Mermaid Inn Monthly BG Jam: Third Tuesday of the month at the Mermaid Inn, Germantown Avenue and Mermaid Lane in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. thereís some good musicianship at this one but all levels of ability are welcome. Call Beth or Billy at 215-782-1630 for details.
Huntingdon Valley Bluegrass Slow Jam: This is a jam expressly for the novice. New players can hone their skills without being intimidated by the hot shots. 2nd & 4th Wednesday of each month, 7:00 - 10:00p.m. at the Gloria Dei Church, 570 Welsh Road, Huntingdon Valley, PA in the music room (lower level). For directions contact John McCarty at 215-379-8385 (home) or 610-828-1071(work) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Craley Jam, (York County, PA)Thursday nights 7:30-11:30 throughout the year. Look for the Flea Market on the main drag. The jam is around back. Good picking & nice folks. There are usually enough pickers to support several jams here and they tend to break out into separate jams self-selected on the basis of skill level. Call Karl Thomas (717)246-9112..
Washington House Bluegrass Jam: Main Street, Sellersville, PA (BucksCounty) on the first Tuesday of the month. I havenít been to this one in along time but I know itís still active. Call the Washington House Restaurant (215-257-3000) or Jim Simpson (215-659-8623) for directions and details.
Bill & Fritzi Wisdomís Old Timey jam. Friday nights 8 p.m. - midnight at their home in Bryn Mawr, PA. This jam is STRICTLY Old Timey so banjo pickers be sure to leave your picks and resonators at home. For directions and details call Bill & Fritzi at (610)527-7080 or email@example.com. This is another of the longest running jams in the Delaware Valley.
Family Worship Center Gospel Jam. Monday nights 7-10 p.m. at 150 North Sumner St. in West York. Call 843-6812 for info.
Philadelphia Folksong Society (PFSS) Monthly Sing: These are usually held on a Saturday night once each month. They rotate among different membersí homes. These sings tend to be very folky in nature. Sometimes they use a jam format and sometimes itís more of an "open circle" format where people take turns playing their favorite stuff. You should be a member of the PFSS to attend regularly but you can attend one or two before actually joining. Contact the PFSS by snail mail (7113 Emlen St., Philadelphia, PA 19119) or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
White Oak Jam (Lancaster County): Every Saturday night throughout the year at the White Oak Campground near Gap, PA. It starts around 6:30. I havenít been there in years. Call 717-687-6207 for directions. This one does not go on Summer hiatus.
Seven Mountains Bluegrass Association Jam: 3rd Sunday of the month from 2-5 p.m. Fellowship Hall of First Methodist Church at 135 West Simpson Street, Mechanicsburg, PA Everyone welcome. Come to play or listen. Monthly concerts are held at the Goodwill Fire Company Hall in York, Pa (across from Campbell's Music Store. For more information check out their website at http://www2.epix.net/~7mtns or email email@example.com or phone 717-697-2064.
Franklintown, PA Firehall. BG and Country Jam on Thursday nights 7-10p.m. in the Franklintown Fire Hall 2 miles south of Dillsburg, PA on route 194. For more info call 717-432-1464 or 717-432-9905 or 717-432-8294. This is more of an open-mic type event.
Arrow Horse Jam: 49 Chambersburg St., Gettysburg, PA every Friday evening 7 - 10 PM. Call Hank Janney 717-337-2899
Blairs Mills Jam: Blairs Mills, Pa behind the post office. Friday nights starting at 6 p.m. Call Robert Devlin, 717-349-2644
Dutch Country Restaurant Jam: Monday evening 7-10PM at Dutch Country Restaurant, (upstairs) 946 Baltimore Street, Hanover, PA. For more information call 717-632-1616. This is more of an open mike sort of event.
Beck and Benedict's Jam: Friday night jams at Beck & Benedict's Hardware Store, 86 W. Main St., Waynesboro, PA For more info call Dick & Della Boschert 717-762-4711
Appalachian Fiddle & Bluegrass Association: Jam sessions on the 2nd Sunday monthly, October - April at noon at the Belfast /Edelmanís Sportsman Club, Belfast, PA. just south of Wind Gap. Call (610)258-4626 or (201)584-3391 for directions. Stage show upstairs, jamming downstairs.
Open Circle Folk Jam at The Point: This is an open circle format. Itís definitely a folkie/bluesy event rather than Old Time or bluegrass. They even have the occasional woodwind. 7 p.m. till 11 p.m. at the The Point Coffee House, 880 West Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr, PA. Pickers of all ability levels are welcome.
Jerseytown, PA Jam: Every 3rd Sunday monthly from Sept. to May , and Starts at 10:00am til
whenever (5 or 6) at Jerseytown Comm. Ctr., Jerseytown ,Pa. Contact Walt Laubach 570-437-2227 for more info.
Pocono Bluegrass and Folk Society and the BPO Elks co-host a monthly shindig on the first Sunday of the month beginning on October 1st and continuing through the winter. The Elk's spacious lodge located on Washington St. in East Stroudsburg boasts a gorgeous main floor for stage shows and two additional floors for small jam sessions. Groups will begin performing stage shows at 12 noon, and doors open at ten. Cost of the event is $3.00, and food and beverages will be available courtesy of the Elks. The Elks lodge is located on 260 Washington St., next to Rosen's Furniture in East Stroudsburg. For further information, call 570-992-2259, 570-421-0997, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gospel Bluegrass Jam. 1st Saturday of the month from 3:30-5 p.m. at theMeadowview School Gym. 3 1/2 miles east of Bordentown, NJ (Rt. 206/130) on Rt. 528. There is also a featured band each month. For more information call 609-758-3261 or 609-758-2464 after 5 p.m.
Lunch Time Jam in Trenton NJ Tuesday and Thursday 12-1 in the Cemetery behind the NJDEP building 401 E State St, there is also an entrance on Clinton Ave. Currently made up of several DEP employees all others are welcome. Contact Kris Geller 215-491-4378.
New Jersey Bluegrass and Old Time Music Association: Jam session every 3rd Sunday of the Month (September through May) 11 a.m. until 5 or 6 p.m. at the M & M Hall, Texas Road, Old Bridge, NJ. See their web site http://www.newjerseybluegrass.com or call (732)828-1059 for directions. There are usually several jams going simultaneously, self selected by level of musicianship from novice to expert.
Pineland Cultural Society. This is primarily an open stage event but there is usually jamming as well. Every Saturday night from 7:30-11:30 at the new Albert Hall next to the Albert Priff School, Rte. 532, Waretown. The stage slots must usually be reserved well in advance of the date you wish to play. Call 609-971-1593. There is some info on the web about them at http://www.alberthall.org/
North Bay Bluegrass Association Monthly Concert and Jam: 2-5 p.m. 3rd Sunday of the month, Sept - June at the Havre de Grace Middle School. Going west on Rt. 40 make a left turn onto Lewis Lane. You'll see the school on your left. For more information call Gary Testerman at 410-939-0028.
C. M. Tugís Deli: A small, weekly Sunday afternoon bluegrass jam 3 - 7:30 p.m., 10 South Main Street, Port Deposit, MD. 410-378-8338. On the 3rd Sunday of the month they don't start until 4 p.m. because they're attending the North Bay BG concert & jam.
Ranger Station Jam and Open Mike: Thursday nights at the Ranger Station, located at the B & A trail and Earleigh Heights Rd., in Severna Park, Md. For further info call Mike Nolan at (410) 766-8684, or e-mail at email@example.com.
Sam's Bagel's Country and BG Open Mike: Every Friday night. at Sam's Bagel's located at 6th Ave. and Ritchie Hwy, just above JBA Chevrolet. in Glen Burnie. For further info call Mike Nolan at (410) 766-8684, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good Deale Bluegrass Shoppe Jam: This is a new and (by all reports very active) BG jam in Deale, MD on Friday nights. The owner, Tim Finch, has really exerted an effort to make all welcome, including light refreshments!!!! For further info call Mike Nolan at 410-766-8684, or e-mail at email@example.com.
The Friendly Inn Open Mic. 11074 Frederick Rd. (Rt. 144), Elliot City. Open Mic Thursdays 8:30 PM. For further info call 301-531-5510 Tri-State Bluegrass Association, Inc. Farmers Picnic Woods, Petersville. Jam Session 2nd Friday monthly, 7:30 PM. For further info call 703-338-7010.
NOTES ON JAMS AND JAM ETIQUETTE
Appropriate jam etiquette should ALWAYS be observed. If youíre a novice, stay in the background & play quietly until you get the hang of it. (This is the musical equivalent of "lurking.") No one is impressed by a newcomer (or old timer) who insists on playing over everyone elseís vocals and breaks. Rules of etiquette tend to differ from jam to jam and especially between Old Timey and BG jams. In BG jams, all pickers are expected to vamp or chop or play back up licks behind the vocalist or whichever instrument is given the nod to take a solo break. In Old Timey (OT) jams, itís common for all banjos and all fiddles to play the melody in unison. This behavior would quickly make you persona non grata at a BG jam. Many OT jams frown on banjo players with finger picks (and possibly resonators) because such instruments overpower the more traditional-style pickers. Playing Scruggs style at some OT jams is liable to get you ridden out of town on a (f)rail <g>. Some "Folky" jams are not jams at all but "open circles" where participants take turns singing and playing. It always pays to stay in the background for a half hour or so until you can deduce the rules.
BG jams will often welcome an OT banjo player and even offer him/her solo breaks but you must obey BG etiquette and not keep frailing, etc. over other peopleís breaks. The key here (and in most group playing) is to maintain eye contact with whoever is leading that particular song. This is usually, but not always, the vocalist or in the case of instrumentals, whoever kicked off the tune. I see lots of novices wondering why no one gives them a solo break. There are usually three answers: 1)The leader tried to give you a break but you were too busy looking at your fingerboard. (Dobro players are notoriously guilty of this particular sin.) 2)The leader didnít feel you needed a solo break since youíd already (effectively) taken your "solo" break(s) albeit while the vocalist was singing or the mandolin was trying to be heard for his solo break. Sometimes I get the impression that new jam participants try to play too loudly and too much so that those standing around will know that the newcomer has some ability and is, therefore, deserving of a solo break. Rest assured that you can give people a feel for your skill level just as easily with a few well chosen back up licks as you can with a raging "solo break" played over the vocals. 3)The final reason you may not get a break is that the jam leader(s) are being insensitive boors. Sometimes this is a momentary lapse and sometimes it is a persistent personality flaw but donít jump to conclusions too quickly. I have heard people say "that jam doesnít like new comers" when I know for a fact that is not true. Give a jam a couple of tries before deciding that the participants are simply too inbred to deal with.
Another truly annoying habit (not necessarily restricted to novices) is evidenced when someone continuously "noodles around" on his/her instrument between songs. People are often trying TUNE between songs and do not , therefore, appreciate such an activity. If your noodling around is a (not so) subtle way of suggesting the next tune, then just go ahead and suggest the next tune! If your noodling around is just a way of showing others how good you are, it is unnecessary, and just plain annoying. If your noodling around is an attempt to practice a particular tune or lick, move away from the group and practice in a corner by yourself. Last but not least, a note for long time jam participants: Go out of your way to be welcoming and helpful to new comers. They represent the future and growth of the music and jam sessions we all love.