SHERIDAN — What do a clarinet, a piano, two guitars, one bass and a cahone have in common? They were all in the black room at the Sheridan WYO Performing Arts and Education Center at Kids Jam: We Jam, You’re Jelly July 2.
Kids Jam is a groovy jam session put together by Max McClenahan, the instructor of the YMCA Guitar program in hopes of creating a relaxed space where musicians 10 and older can learn how to make music with their peers and practice their instrument of choice. They practice chord progressions in different genres, improvisations and solos.
“I remember when I was 15 playing guitar in Vegas and I had to play in bars if I wanted to perform outside of my room,” McClenahan said. “But why do I have to play in a bar with some old guy just because I want to play guitar outside of my bedroom?”
McClenahan has around 20 different students, and his home studio cannot host each eager child wanting to start a band or wanting to learn different styles of music. The guitar teacher also wants to create an open community between young artists. He insists his least favorite part of the music industry is trying to network.
“I’ve been in and out of the industry and there’s a reason I’m teaching now,” McClenahan said. “I hate the hustle of it all even if it’s a business aspect; I’d really like to cut that aspect out for my students.”
The first night of Kids Jam was filled with music from seven different instruments, played by ages ranging from 10 to 14 as McClenah led them on a guitar of his own with music notes on a whiteboard. Each student at a different learning level, each student gleeful as they hear remnants of the beginning of music being made.
“I came because I thought I’d feel pretty comfortable meeting people and just playing some music,” Thomas Hernandez said. “My mom doesn’t really like loud noises in the house.”
“I just thought it would be fun because I don’t really get to do this kind of stuff that often,” Afton Hadfield said. “I don’t really get to play with other people a lot so I thought this would be a good opportunity to meet some new people; It’d be pretty cool to start a band.”
It’s clear to anyone in the room that McClenahan, or the self-acclaimed “The guitar guy” has completed his main mission: create a kid-friendly space to let youth engage in music of all genres, all skill levels and all aspirations. Whether the kid daydreams about being a rockstar or just needs a play his cahone as loud as he wants: Kids Jam: We Jam, You’re Jelly is the place for them to go.
All instruments are encouraged except for drums, and if you choose an electric instrument, the artist must bring their own amp. Consistent weekly attendance isn’t mandatory, and there is no fee to join in on the fun. Donations are welcomed, and all proceeds will go to the WYO Theater.