Ironically, the first time I walked into the Green Frog, an intimate live Americana music venue and hole-in-the-wall tavern, I carried a guitar case and was not there to watch music. The floor of the Frog was covered with empty peanut shells, the remains of the only food item on offer, discarded thusly presumably to limit the cleaning of the floors to once per day. Besides the stools lining the bar, there were a few picnic tables, and several very large dogs were splayed out.
I’d heard through the grapevine of an open music circle, held there every Sunday afternoon, referred to as the Slow Jam, and intended as a supportive learning environment for beginner and intermediate level musicians interested mostly in Country and Bluegrass music. Turns were taken around the circle, when it was your turn you chose a song and lead it, meaning you ran through the chords briefly for the others, and then sang the main vocal part. This approach, along with a restrained tempo, the “slow” in Slow Jam, made for a safe, non-intimidating space to make the million mistakes necessary to become a better musician.
The other, incredibly gratifying outcome of attending the Slow Jam as I did, nearly weekly over the course of two or so years: as my skills and confidence grew, I discovered the joy of paying it forward: remaining patient with others who were struggling in areas I had been, and when solicited happily sharing tips and gave constructive feedback.
The Slow Jam would move with the Green Frog to their new location in 2012, and shortly thereafter I was invited to join a jam held at the Frog on Friday afternoons for more advanced players. This jam would move on to several different locations, several other Slow Jam alum were regulars, and the friends I’ve made in this community became very, very dear to me.