York College Holds its Third Jam Session of the Semester

Photo by |CUNY York College Website

By Cristina John

York College held its third Jam Session of the semester on October 6 via Zoom with Thomas Zlabinger, the Assistant Music Professor, holding down the fort and introducing new and old artists to the session. 

The first Jam Session for this semester took place on September 15. The York College Jam Session formed in 2017, so musicians and those who love music can come together and bond over music. These sessions usually took place during club hours on campus.

“[The jam session formed] to create a community around music-making by providing an inclusive and supportive environment for musicians to jam with one another,” says Zlabinger.  “It sounds simple. But it is a unique concoction, as most jam sessions are style specific and expect advanced knowledge in that style.” 

As the pandemic still has everyone inside, everyone is feeling the effects of losing that social interaction with their family and friends. Musicians aren’t protected from this, and they too are craving that social interaction with their fellow musicians. The Jam Session isn’t just for one genre of musicians. From jazz to pop, you’ll be able to enjoy different genres of music and musicians and listen to them share their music and their musical journey. Any and everyone is encouraged to join, as these sessions are filled with positivity and encouragement.

Some of the artists that were able to show up for this Jam Session were jazz musician Charles Bartlett who has a long professional history as a musician and jazz musician. He has spent 35 years teaching orchestral music to middle schoolers and high schoolers. About six years ago, Zlabinger hired him to work with the brass and jazz band. Bartlett also has a jazz band of his own where he got to play for people like Oprah Winfrey, Spike Lee, and Miles Davis. Bartlett was able to give us a snippet of his trumpet playing.

Tap dancer and foot musician, Omar Edwards, joined this session and talked a little about his tap-dancing career and how he fell in love with the art form. One of the interesting things he did during this session was tap-danced while playing the piano.

York’s very own Lisa Angel Ray, who works at YC Radio as the operator announcer, talked about getting back into poetry after a significant shift in her life with Multiple sclerosis (MS). Ray has a book out called Angel’s Heart Guided by Light which is filled with inspirational poetry. During this session, she recited one of the poems from her book. 

Lisa Ray’s poetry book released in May 2018

Some of York’s students and alumni were able to attend this session. Sam Yun is an alumnus who graduated from York College in 2015, who started playing the bass when he was attending York. The one thing he emphasized while talking about the bass was to keep practicing.   

Devalis Carver, a rapper who goes by the name Gra.CD is a student at York College. He will be dropping his EP album, New York on December 4th, which showcases some of his experiences through life and the way he sees the world.

The Jam Session has been going on for three years now, but every year seems to be a success filled with music-making, talking about music, and finding new artists. When asked how the jam session has been going this semester, Zlabinger is happy with the outcome and the route it is going. 

“It has evolved from an in-person, multi-person jam to more of a song circle where individuals share solo performances with one another,” says Zablinger. “We also chat about music, so sometimes the jam feels like a radio show. Still, the goal of the session is still the same: to create a community in an inclusive and supportive environment,” says Zlabinger.

If you are not able to make the Jam Sessions, you still have the opportunity to catch up on what you’ve missed. The sessions are recorded and uploaded on York’s Facebook page. If you are a musician, come jam out with other fellow artists and have a good time for two hours! 

Professor Zlabinger has big things in the works for the Jam Session. He would like musicians to play with one another at the same time online! However, there is always a lag on these social platforms over the internet. Zlabinger has reached out to Professor Chis Chafe, at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics at Stanford University in California. 

“[He] has developed [a] platform called JackTrip that enables musicians to perform together across the internet with very low latency,” says Zablinger. “It’s an amazing application! I have used it with other musicians and will be performing at the upcoming NowNet Arts Conference in November with musicians from all over the world.”

Zlabinger went ahead and talked to IT at York to inquire about this platform and see if they can get the necessary software and hardware so students at York will be able to play together during this time of self-quarantine. 

“Also, this will benefit our students in the Jazz Band and Chorus, which we currently cannot offer while we are doing remote learning. So this is a big deal!” says Zlabinger.

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