SPANISH FORK A college professor, a clinical psychologist and a graphic artist are just three of the people who step out of their everyday roles to make music at the monthly BluesJam.
The free, open stage event at the Royal Palace Theater, 165 N. Main in Spanish Fork, has been going on for eight years and sometimes fills up half or more of the aged movie theater the first Thursday of every month.
"If we get an audience of 50 we're thrilled. ... It's very much a grass-roots thing," said Bob Williams, an Orem clinical psychologist.
He assumes the persona of "Dr. Bob" when he takes his 14 harmonicas to jam with other "blues dudes."
"It's really been a kick," he said.
Most of the performers are people who simply love music and are looking for a chance to perform with a band. Lots of guitarists show up, along with the occasional trumpet, trombone, sax player or singer. Boothe Bros. Music store supplies the venue, while music teacher Curt Gordon coordinates it along with other Thursday night events.
While the BluesJam is free, the rest of the Thursday night events during the month carry a $3 ticket price: Classic Country on the second Thursday, Classic Rock on the third Thursday and Bluegrass and Acoustic performances on the fourth Thursday. For the occasional fifth Thursday, Gordon puts on the Gumbo Sho, which features musicians from the open stage jams.
Boothe Bros. Music also supplies amplifiers, a drum set and pays the light bill but allows Gordon to run the show. A guitar player sets up the lights, while one of the performers, a graphic artist, designs the posters. To them it's all a labor of love.
Williams visited the show little more than a year ago and brought two harmonicas with him. Partway through the event he was encouraged to get up onstage and perform.
"I wasn't very good, but it worked out OK," he said.
Since then he's become a regular. Now 61, Williams said there's lots of gray hair among the performers. The jam sessions span the generation gap, attracting performers from Brigham Young University and Utah Valley State college, along with students from area high schools. Any level of skill is welcome.
"The idea initially was to offer a venue for people to play with a live band," Gordon said. "The blues are easy to play or to follow along with. It's just a one, four, five progression in a lot of the blues."
Typically the host band, Good Karma BluesJam, or a band led by musician Gary Tada, plays a short setthen begins rotating band members out, replacing them with performers from the audience. People sign up and get to play two songs with the band. Once they cycle through the audience, they cycle through again, giving everyone a chance to perform, Gordon said.
"It's not about partying, it's about the music," Williams said.
The venue is smoke- and alcohol-free a family-friendly environment. The show begins at 8 p.m. and runs as late as 11 p.m."It's exciting to be onstage," Williams said. "It's hard to describe how exciting it is."