San Juan Jazz Society formed to continue weekly jam sessions

Successful series will move indoors this week to Civic Center

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — What began as a modest effort to bring local musicians and listeners together once a week for an outdoor jazz jam session during the summer has turned into a considerably more ambitious project.

The free weekly series in the pocket park behind downtown's Studio 116 art gallery became such a success that founder Delbert Anderson has organized an informal group known as the San Juan Jazz Society to promote the growth and appreciation of jazz music in the area. With the help of several local sponsors, the society — which is led by six people who essentially serve as board members — plans on continuing the weekly jam sessions through the rest of the year.

Trumpet player Delbert Anderson performs a solo during a San Juan Jazz Society jam session on Sept. 26 in the Studio 116 pocket park in downtown Farmington.

Anderson, who serves as an adjunct music faculty member at San Juan College and leads his own nationally touring jazz band, said he was gratified by the popularity of the weekly jam sessions, which were funded throughout the summer by a grant from the Connie Gotsch Arts Foundation. The sessions featured a rotating cast of local musicians led by Anderson, and free hot dogs and bottled water, as well as a featured visual artist each week who created a painting to be auctioned off at the end of the night.

A group of local musicians performs in the Studio 116 pocket park on Sept. 26 as part of the weekly jazz jam sessions presented by the newly organized San Juan Jazz Society.

The sessions typically attracted 75 to 80 people each week, Anderson said, though the crowd was sometimes almost twice that. The series was scheduled to end Sept. 5 when the grant ran out, but Anderson and other musicians from the group considered the sessions such a success, they became committed to continuing them.

"I was really surprised the community was so willing and open to keeping this thing operating," he said.

Keyboard player Sheldon Pickering performs during a San Juan Jazz Society jam session Sept. 26 at the Studio 116 pocket park in Farmington.

They continued holding the sessions at the Studio 116 pocket park through Sept. 26, but with fall settling in, the series will move inside to the Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington St., for its next installment at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Anderson said the society hopes to secure a permanent home for the series over the next several weeks, with the former Andrea Kristina's Bookstore and Kafe at 218 W. Main St. being cited as a possibility.

Vocalist Sallyanne Bachman belts out a tune during the Sept. 26 San Juan Jazz Society jam session at the Studio 116 pocket park in Farmington.

In the meantime, various sponsors have come on board to allow the society to continue offering free hot dogs and bottled water, Anderson said. Those who have supported the series include Studio 116, the Farmington Civic Center, the Christian Science Reading Room, Basin Home Health and Hospice Inc., Kopy-Rite Printing & Graphics, the Northwest New Mexico Arts Council and Complete Streets.

More:New weekly jazz jam sessions a hit at Studio 116 pocket park

The society's leadership is interested in pursuing official nonprofit status at some point, Anderson said, but the group is operating informally for now to keep the jam session series going. Each "director" is responsible for a specific task, such as wooing sponsors or overseeing equipment load-in and load-out before and after the jam sessions, and volunteers are assigned to each director.

The weekly jazz jam sessions at the Studio 116 pocket park have been very popular, drawing an average of 75 to 80 listeners a night.

The society also has put together a Facebook page to keep community members informed about its activities and has adopted an official logo. It hopes to put together a fundraising event sometime this fall.

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Mike Easterling is the night editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.