Bring Back the Music: an old-time jam session

Kalee Chism

The Kentucky Folklife Program is planning its first old-time jam session of the year, scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 27 from 7 – 9 p.m.; all are welcome to come and listen or play at the event.

Although these sessions have happened in the past, Nicole Musgrave, the graduate assistant of the Kentucky Folklife program, is musically-inclined and led a push for more sessions this year.

“We use the pioneer log cabin for a number of small, house concert types of things to share traditional music and culture in the Commonwealth and beyond, basically celebrating traditional arts,” Brent Bjorkman, director of the Kentucky Folklife program, said. Jam sessions are usually when people get together informally to play music, he explained.


“We did a little bit of it last year, but we’re really starting to kick off into something that’s more robust and try to get a central core of people here that would come over and over again,” Bjorkman said. “So, we’re really trying to promote it in that way.”

The goal of the program is to provide a space where old-time music can be played and preserved, as well as create a community where this type of music can foster and be played among different musicians, Musgrave said.

Musgrave said the events will offer space for people who want to get out of their houses and come play music with and learn from other people, rather than playing alone.

“We want it to be open to all levels, and maybe people that don’t necessarily have experience in a jam can come here and feel comfortable learning the etiquette, learning some more songs to add to their repertoire,” she said. “So, in that way, we’re hoping to create a community of people who come and play and hang out.”

The sessions are meant to be very dynamic, for each player to build off one another and add a piece of their style to the music.

Bjorkman said the mission of the Kentucky Folklife program is to document, present and conserve traditional arts and cultural heritage of the Commonwealth. 

“Everybody that learns a song maybe puts their own little piece on it, and to put it together, to explore each other that way, to learn, to have a good time, creates a sense of community and a place to hang out and find like-minded people who like the same thing,” he said.

The program is hoping to host these jams monthly, and to get people of all levels to come out and play, listen and meet people.

“We hope that students, and people in the community in general, will bring an instrument and join the jam and play,” Musgrave said. “And if people don’t play, or they’re interested or maybe they’re not familiar with old-time music they can just come and watch to kind of get an idea of what the music sounds like and see what a jam session is about.”

People are welcome to come watch, even if they don’t want to play, she added.

Musgrave said she is most looking forward to hearing and playing music, as well as meeting new people and hearing their different styles and takes on songs.

Each player brings a different style and take on the music, adding a piece of them to the songs, allowing all of the players and listeners to grow and add to their musical interest.

“One of the things, too, when you’re meeting people that come to the jam session; there’s people that come that know how to play a little bit, or maybe they’re just curious,” Bjorkman said. “Maybe there’s another ring around the players kind of watching, and over time maybe they’ll get the courage, or be encouraged to take up an instrument as well.”

Reporter Kalee Chism can be reached at 270-745-2655 and [email protected].