Where it all Began
In 2001, friends and music lovers Doug Richards and Wally Thulin sat down with an idea that they had been working with for a while. According to Thulin, the original plan was to work together to enhance the traditional music scene in Richmond, not only in the schools but also in the community. What Richards and Thulin did not anticipate was that others would quickly join their mission, and their grassroots idea would gain momentum and grow into what is now known as JAMinc.
Over the past 12 years, JAMinc has operated as a successful, nonprofit organization that promotes music education and appreciation in local schools through the support of nationally and internationally recognized folk, bluegrass, gospel, jazz, and blues musicians. JAMinc’s mission is simple, but powerful—to open minds, hearts and ears to music deserving a wider audience through education, performance, and support.
The Key Players
JAMinc functions through the hard work and dedication of several music loving volunteers. According to Thulin, everyone who is involved in the operation does so because he or she believes in the mission and values the role that JAMinc plays in the Richmond community.
Currently, JAMinc’s board of directors is made up of individuals with diverse musical interests and backgrounds. . This diversity of expertise gives JAMinc a strong foundation, but also allows for a fresh and forward-looking approach to reach organizational goals. For example, co founder and original director, Doug Richards, is a professor of music at Virginia Commonwealth University and an expert in jazz education, arrangement, and production. Thulin has operated an independent record label, Courthouse Records, and an artist management firm, Fieldcrest Music, for over 20 years.
Since JAMinc’s inception, Tim Timberlake and Andy Garrigue have been added on as additional board members. Timberlake brings decades of experience in broadcasting, voice over work, emceeing and festival stage management to the organization. Garrigue, the resident harmonica master, has an extensive history in music media and currently works in custom instrument case fabrication. Additionally, an advisory council, consisting of local musicians, business owners and educators, exists to help guide future JAMinc decisions.
Community sponsors also play a key role in the mission of JAMinc. Current sponsors are Richmond Public Radio WCVE-FM 88.9, Cedar Creek Custom Case Shoppe, TKL Products Corp., Hohner Inc., Hampton Inn- Richmond West at Innsbrook, and Hilton Garden Inn Downtown.
Bringing Music to The Students:
Since 2003, JAMinc has organized over 150 in-school musical events at over 50 Richmond schools including, Mary Munford Elementary, Miles Jones Elementary, Collegiate Middle and Elementary, Maggie Walker Governor’s School, and St. Christopher’s School. These free performances typically draw crowds of 300-500 students. Through these events, over to 55,000 K-12 students have been exposed to traditional music that they would not likely hear on a regular radio rotation.
In 2006, JAMinc began a partnership with the National Folk Festival—now the Richmond Folk Festival—to bring national and international musicians into schools for educational performances during the festival week. Over the past eight years, JAMinc volunteers have coordinated these events and provided transportation for the visiting musicians. This partnership will serve as an important conduit for JAMinc to expose students to a variety of musical styles for years to come.
If You Build It, They Will Come
In addition to exposing students to traditional music, JAMinc also organizes the “Studio A Concert Series,” a collection of monthly, evening concerts that showcase the same musicians who perform in the schools. Concert tickets typically range from $20-25, and can be ordered in advance online, or at the door on the day of the concert if space permits. Concert promotion through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, on local radio, and in print outlets like Style Weekly and The Richmond Dispatch helps fill the house for each show.
Concerts are held at In Your Ear Music and Recording’s Studio A in a “house concert” format, where attendees are encouraged to contribute to a potluck dinner before the show. Attendees experience an intimate performance and are given the opportunity to socialize with the musician(s) before, at the set-break, and after the concert. This format allows for a more engaging experience for both the musician and audience member, further promoting the overall commitment to music appreciation and strengthening the music community.
Musicians perform two 45-minute sets to a maximum audience of 80 people. Concerts are staged in a state-of-the art, acoustically near-perfect studio and recorded live by In Your Ear engineers. Each recording is mixed and made available to the musicians. Each musician allows JAMinc to use at least two tracks for possible release on an annual compilation CD.
To continue to support and promote musical talent among Richmond’s youngest musicians, JAMinc allows free attendance for “Top Students” who are nominated by local instructors and educators. These students are introduced to the audience and are given the opportunity to meet and talk with the musician(s) after the concert. JAMinc implemented the “Top Student” award as a way to recognize, reward, and inspire some of Richmond’s most musically talented students.
Musicians who agree to work with JAMinc are paid a modest honorarium for in-school events, and a pre-determined fee for evening performances. Visiting musicians are also provided with complimentary accommodations at a local sponsoring hotel. Past invited musicians include famed acoustic guitar maker Wayne Henderson, acclaimed bluegrass trio The Kruger Brothers, and Grammy Award-winning multi-instrumentalist Howard Levy.
A Plan of Attack
There appears to be no end in sight for budget cuts and curricular shifts that threaten music education. In an effort to continue to promote and support music education and appreciation in the Richmond area, JAMinc will operate under the current organizational mission. In addition, board members have implemented plans for future expansion of programming along with growth of JAMinc participation.
To stay on task and ensure continued success, JAMinc board members meet on a need basis to discuss upcoming events, artist search and recruitment, fundraising options, and organizational goals. In the past, fundraising methods have included collection of private donations, a raffle, corporate sponsorship, compilation CD sales, T shirt sales and a small percentage of concert ticket sales.
Since 2001, JAMinc has grown from an idea between friends to an organization that creates immeasurable music education and appreciation opportunities not only for Richmond area students, but also for the entire community. In order to continue to meet their mission, the hardworking volunteers at JAMinc need an ongoing commitment from the local community.
If you are a principal or educator who would like to partner with JAMinc for future in-school events, a musician who would like to perform, a local business owner who is interested in sponsorship opportunities or a music lover who would like to volunteer to assist with concerts, please contact Wally Thulin at GoJAMinc@aol.com or 804-303-0888 Office or 804 349-9439 Cell.