Not all student organizations have to be based on academics, sports or politics. In fact, sometimes the best groups are formed by a group of friends who just get together and do what they love.
And in the case of Colin Shannon, he and his friends actually had no intention of starting a new student organization. The creation of Just Arts and Music—known by the more appropriate acronym, JAM—was really a happy accident.
“The group sort of started last year, and it was kind of a spontaneous thing with my group of friends,” said Shannon, a sophomore Sociology/Professional Writing major and one of the organization’s officers.
“We were playing music outside for a while, and when it got dark we kept wanting to play music, so we went to the Student Center and we used the stage,” he said. “It was a pretty small kept thing all last year just with my group of friends.”
After a year of holding unofficial open mic nights, the group got bigger, attracting more members—and the attention of the University, which has strict guidelines about who can use space in the Student Center.
“The University pretty much said, ‘Hey, you have to either form a student organization or you need to pay for the space of the stage,’” Shannon said. “So we just recently became a student organization, but we’ve always really been open to new participants.”
The group meets at 9:15 p.m. every Wednesday night at the stage in the Food Court of the Student Center. When people start arriving a sign up sheet is circulated through the audience and anyone who wants to can sign up for a 15-minute slot.
“You can pretty much do whatever you want,” he said. “We typically have musicians, but we’ve also had people read poetry, do slam poetry, some people rap, some people create skits.”
The group doesn’t have many rules or restrictions on performances, but they have had a few bad experiences, including a rap battle that offended a number of people. But the majority of the time people are just there to have fun, which makes it a very relaxed setting, both for the audience and performers.
“I think most of the performers are kind of beginners,” Shannon said. “It’s a good outlet because the crowd is usually really accepting and they don’t expect much. It’s definitely for fun and not a serious endeavor. It’s usually really laid back. I think it’s really perfect for beginning musicians. I definitely became a better musician by constantly performing every week, and it was really difficult at first because I’ve never done anything like that.”
Shannon himself doesn’t come from a musical background, but through performing every Wednesday and spending time with the rest of the group he has discovered his hidden musical talent: playing the ukulele. Visit EasternEcho.com to see a video of Shannon and fellow JAM member Rachel Viola performing a few songs live.
The group is still growing, and though Shannon says he still knows most of the audience, every week someone new shows up and brings something different to the group.
In the future the group would like to hold some kind of larger musical event with local bands, but no firm plans have been made yet.
“We had planned to do a kind of a bigger concert because we had contacts from a lot of bands, and we wanted to rent out the audiotirum and have a donation based [event] where we would donate to the homeless population in Ypsi, or something like that to help the community,” he said. “But it’s not really taking shape because everyone just so busy.”
For more information on JAM visit them at EMUStudentOrgs.com or stop by the Student Center at 9:15 p.m. this Wednesday.