As many of you know (and if you’ve been a follower of One Unified Project), Michelle and I are avid music lovers. We’ve featured bands on here, spoke about music events, Michelle documented her visit to the Rock and roll hall of fame, and we bring you a calendar each and every week with where the local bands and musicians we’ve featured, are playing. So I couldn’t be more thrilled than to bring you a musical Sunday Spotlight this week. I was told about “Guitar Mash” from one of our past featured musicians, Dean Rubenstein, of Jah People. I’d never heard of it. After watching the video and learning about what it is, I’m excited to share the information with all of you. Thank you to Jesse Guglielmo (co-chair and council member), Rebecca Weller (founder) and Maureen McSherry (co-producer) for not only taking the time to collectively educate me about this organization, but for creating it and growing it for music is the ultimate unifier.
The answers were primarily answered by founder of Guitar Mash, Rebecca Weller.
What exactly is Guitar Mash?
A non-profit that creates participatory events with the mission of reconnecting music with its social roots. Our aim is to connect people of diverse ages, abilities and backgrounds to their inner music makers and to each other.
(To see a video explaining Guitar Mash and showing what it’s about, check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Bn5h2kcEVM )
How did it begin and why? What was the inspiration?
Having produced interactive events throughout my career (including Midsummer Night Swing at Lincoln Center, which I co-founded in 1989), I have always tried to heighten the audience’s experience with opportunities to actively participate. When my teenage son started playing guitar, he had very few opportunities to play with other people. So his experience — even though we always have lots of recorded music playing in our house — was limited to an hour in a room, at music school, with a teacher, once a week. As they get better, some kids taking lessons are lucky enough to find a band to play in — some adults are too — but many are not. And then there are the thousands who don’t have access to private lessons, and might be learning as part of group classes or programs that are gifted free instruments through their schools. They are instructed, but they never truly have an opportunity to PLAY.
I was on the board of Church Street School for Music & Art and in 2010 had the thought of doing a communal sing-along/play-along to celebrate their 20th anniversary. So, we set up a stage in the parking lot next to the school, and had school daddy (at the time) Mike D. of the Beastie Boys lead the crowd in Jason Mraz and Smoke on the Water. The production was crude but the idea struck a “chord”. It was clear that dads and sons loved coming together with their instruments in hand, as did friends, sisters, lots of folks — it was a diverse and happy audience. That experience, along with the desire to create something that would keep my own teen engaged in music, inspired me to create Guitar Mash. And truth be told, the real root of creating what I sometimes call a “movement” is likely the moment I saw Pete Seeger and his banjo at the South Street Seaport in the early 70s, leading an ocean of voices surrounding him in song. Earnest and passionate.
How do people get involved in Guitar Mash?
Sign up on our mailing list at http://www.guitarmash.org and you will be notified of all of our events! In addition to attending our events, our hope is that Guitar Mash will inspire people to light some “campfires” of their own, to download some charts and invite friends over to play and sing together. If you know even a few chords on the guitar, you can play a bunch of songs. Chances are, other people in your circles play or used to play, and before you know it — you’ve got a Mash.
What type of events do you run and where are they held?
Annual Benefit Jam at City Winery – November
The Great Woodstock Mash – summertime
Smaller Campfire Jams – in various homes of guitarists/music lovers
Field Trips – to musical gems; in the past have included Retrofret in Brooklyn, and Rudy’s Music in Soho
Teen activities – Spring Mash Mob (aka flash mob) and the Teen Acoustic Guitar Project
Are there “chapters” of your organization all over or is it centralized?
It’s centralized in the New York area at the moment with expansion plans in the works. Our recent Guitar Mash at City Winery did reach people in the UK, Ireland, Israel, Argentina and Brazil via our live stream, which included the musical charts for guitarists and singers. In this sense, the Mash is already global!
Where might people in our area (Philadelphia) be able to take part in a meet up in the future?
We do have plans for expansion but in just a limited number of other markets. Among our plans for expansion is; the creation of a toolkit with charts, digital master classes by our musical director Mark Stewart, local educational resources and more. Stay tuned!