Post and Photos by Mark Hopkins
It started with a long bike ride some three years ago for Chris Buckner.
Trudging up a long hill on a thousand mile bike ride, Chris peddled to the beat of drum only he could hear. The tempo of a recent drum-circle still pounding out a rhythm in his head is what would see him to the top of a hill while riding his single-speed bike.
The rhythm that only he could hear, drove him. That pulse empowered him to push forward when fatigue began to take its toll on him physically and mentally. A condition largely due to the poor choice of a single speed bicycle on a 1000 mile trek.
He thought to himself, “why couldn’t this pulse be shared?” Can the beat that’s driving him – this internal stomp of a beat – also drive others? It took the next three years for this UW philosophy student to formulate his idea that music and beat really IS universal, and SHOULD be as much a part of everyone’s lives as breathing, and everyone should enjoy it, regardless of their skill in it. That pulse drives us all. It envelops our lives. Why not bring the power of music, and the creation of music, to the masses?
‘Let’s Jam’ was born from “the sudden epiphany that all the important skills could be gained by playing music together”. It is a totally free and open session for anyone who wants to participate. ‘Let’s Jam’ found its way to Mountlake Terrace recently, and specifically, to the currently empty and uninviting corner of 44th and 228th that once was the home of the HandiMart convenience store. Unbeknownst to the residents of Mountlake Terrace, this flat, grey slab of concrete was about to become a stage. A stage that would bring impromptu music and fun to a community longing for connections to bridge diverse separations brought on by a myriad of social obstacles. The pleasure and euphoria music brings to each of us as spectators, can also be enjoyed as a CREATOR of such art, regardless of any training or experience. How will we know what we can or cannot make unless we try? Chris brings the ‘try’ right to our own community. Quite literally into our backyards.
Alan Clark, owner of the property (ARCA, Architecture, Urban Planning & Development), who also owns the Roger’s Market Property, stopped by while I was there and expressed his support with similar sentiments. Alan and his company have extended their invitation and support for Chris to continue his HandiMart Jams as long as he wants. Of course, the MLT228 project will destage him from this location, but I’m hoping that the support of this community, and the people that jam with Chris, will continue to find new impromptu venues for Chris to bring his unique art of music to us here in Mountlake Terrace, our communities, and beyond.
As a musician, and artist, and most importantly, a community member, I think Chris’ idea of a non-judgemental forum for self-expression through music is genius. It’s exactly what this often divided growth pained community needs: A chance for neighbors to come out and create together. It may not be Grammy worthy music, but it’s music, and most importantly, it’s fun, and allows us to let down our inhibitions and be a community outside of a social media page. I spent several hours there watching and even participating – Drums, a little keyboard, and then an epic 867-5309 performance. I saw participants come and go, but all with a hunger to try something either for the first time, or the thousandth time. It was truly surreal.
This wasn’t the tied down instruments of the EMP. This was real. This was dynamic and spontaneous. It was driven not by an admission fee and a limited time before you were forced to yield the mounted guitar… it was alive. It ebbed and flowed, and at moments blended to colors and sounds that made you smile, and then in a moment, made you cringe. But you looked up only to see smiles. To see joy of a toddler playing drums along with a guitar player with years of experience. The toddler fully believing he’s setting down a percussion foundation that Neil Peart would envy. They were in the moment and living it.
This, is art. This, is MUSICAL art. This is art in its most purest form of individualistic creation and neighbor helping neighbor create: Music. It is truly a breath of fresh air in an otherwise artistically stagnant time. My hope, as resident, and an art commissioner, is that this can be a stepping stone to attention to music as an art form in our community. From our school programs, to local professionals, to the very people that make up our community: there lives this art called music.
Chris brings his public jam sessions to various locations around the South Snohomish County area.
I will also try to update this blog or post updates to the MLTARTS Facebook page as updates occur.
Some additional photographic selections from my visit on Friday, June 1st are below. Chris is planning being at MLT’s HandiJams every Friday from 2PM to 8PM. I will be there as much as possible supplying clean generator power. Be excellent to each other, and party on dudes….
Photographer, MLT Art Commissioner
All images © 2018 Mark Hopkins Photography – MLTARTS used with permission
All Rights Reserved
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