It was a glorious Sunday morning in late-March, typical for that time of year. The "Flying Jazzman's" musicians were upstairs setting up in the Little Gem Saloon’s homey “Ramp Room” as my team of mentors arrived. This was our first ever New Orleans band workshop.
Strains of blues from the brunch downstairs would swell and then fade with each person who entered the room. Finally, when everyone was present, I signaled to Jan Nielsen, the bandleader. He understood that the stage was his and it was time to get to work.
When they started to play for us, it was obvious that each of Jan’s band members shared his passion for New Orleans music. Sure, we would have plenty to work on for the rest of the day. But their enthusiasm was a great place to start.
Read on to see the rest of a fabulous day with our friends from Denmark and see what our workshops entail.
Our Workshop Format
First, our guests perform a short set for us. After a few songs, a brief assessment helps us learn the things they want to work on most.
Then, my team of mentor-musicians and I perform a couple of selections.
Through an open discussion of their experiences, valuable insights about performing the traditional music of New Orleans are shared.
Next, we split up for some one-on-one instruction. The Little Gem Saloon is a large enough facility that each member of the guest ensemble has space for a private coaching session. This is an important aspect of the tradition that all these New Orleans masters recognize.
After focusing on some individual skills, it's time to get back on the bandstand. For applying concepts of ensemble playing, the jam session format is the perfect model.
It's quite a workout. And, at this point, everyone’s more than ready to sit down for a lunch catered by Little Gem Saloon.
Time to Strut Your Stuff
Following lunch, the workshop concludes with a performance. The Flying Jazzman band decided to take advantage of the stage downstairs, which I personally prefer. It's elegant yet casual and perfect for acoustic music.
A two or three camera taping captures the set. The group gets all the raw footage. But we edit one complete song and include it with a short video of the workshop.
Our Danish friends were restricted from “working” so Little Gem Saloon wrote them a letter to specify that they were only coming for an educational workshop. Of course, for groups without permit concerns, such as bands in the U.S., your set can be open to the public!
Schedule Your Workshop
The workshop format is flexible. But for the most meaningful experience, we strongly encourage including the elements you just read about.
Every band is unique, so the conversation starts with writing to us. Tell us about your band and what you want to do together.
Read more about what's possible!
Hope to see you in New Orleans!
[Photos: 2018, April Renae Photography]