Zach Werrell lays down a bass line in the background. Partially shown in the foreground, mentor Bob Schaller leads the Guitar Club as they play on the town square in Leonardtown, Md. Photo Courtesy CSM.
SOUTHERN MARYLAND - It all started when Bob Schaller saw students at the College of Southern Maryland's Leonardtown campus cradling guitars and picking out tunes. The students, who sat tucked into corners and campus stairwells, could have been doing anything between their classes but they were choosing to hone their art and make music, for the love of music. The dedication these young players showed gave Schaller the impetus and motivation to help organize and advise the CSM Guitar Club.
Now nearing the completion of its second year together, the CSM Guitar Club is attracting members and fans, not only to their music but their dedication to playing music while developing community.
"Really, I think we barely had enough members to form a club, but somehow we did""We started with five or six students who attended regularly," said Schaller, who in addition to being the club's academic advisor is also the chair of CSM's Business, Economics, and Legal Studies Department. "Really, I think we barely had enough members to form a club, but somehow we did."
Schaller notes that the group has expanded and is in a constant state of fluctuation. As a group whose primary purpose is to expand opportunities in the community for guitar players to get together and jam off of one another, their lineup is always changing and is rarely the same from one venue to the next. Students graduate and move on to other groups and colleges. Everyone has their own schedule into which they must work performances and practices. "Sometimes we are generating members out of the audiencewe ask them to come and sing or play with us," said Schaller. "Sometimes, these audience members join us for one gig, but others sing and play fairly regularly."
"One of the nice things about the club is that it gives local blues and jazz players a chance to get together and play""One of the nice things about the club is that it gives local blues and jazz players a chance to get together and play, regardless of their abilities or musical backgrounds," said Chris Everett, age 19. Everett is a CSM music student and Patuxent High School graduate who has been with the CSM Guitar Club since its inception in December 2004.
Dan Heelyanother guitar club memberand Everett came across flyers that they later learned Dean Keating had been planting all over campus with the hope that students would find them and come and play with the group. "We did and it has turned out to be a great way to improve my skills," says Everett. "Playing with other people is one of the most important things you can do as a musician because it opens you up to more sounds and techniques of playing than you would have experienced if you were just working off your own tastes."
"I played my first session with the guitar club during their performance in Leonardtown Town Square in August," said Joe Orlando, owner of Fenwick Street Used Books and Music and an adjunct professor of dance at St. Mary's College. "Bob talked me into joining after I had attended a couple guitar club events. He is wonderful at encouraging community. Plus, the more times and people you play with, the more it helps develop one's chops."
"Everyone who participates in the guitar club takes away something different and that is exciting"Schaller notes that there is a limitation on what you can teach on an individual basis. He says that when you get people from all ages togetherthe club's youngest member is 15, the oldest is 65their combined personal and musical backgrounds raise the level of music study on and off the campus because you are telling everyone in the community that their voices, their music, and their contributions are just as important as someone else's. "Everyone who participates in the guitar club takes away something different and that is exciting," said Schaller.
"The guitar club really accepts and embraces players from all levels, and Bob [Schaller] is the reason behind that""The guitar club really accepts and embraces players from all levels, and Bob [Schaller] is the reason behind that," said Timothy Keating, CSM's Dean of Arts and Sciences. "He has helped to create a powerful musical outlet for the region." Keating further noted that Shaller's dedication reinforces his belief that the CSM staff and faculty really care about the college and its students, and will do things for the college above and beyond their job descriptions. Keating plays with the guitar club every chance he gets.
While the guitar club meets the first Friday of each month to practice, members gather throughout the month to participate at different events and shows around Southern Maryland. The group just played a jam session at the Leonardtown Town Square that was well-received, according to Schaller. They also have a regular spot at the Coffee Quarter in California and will again be playing at the Leonardtown Christmas on the Square. They have and will continue to play at local fundraisers, including Cancer Survivor and Friends, Tri-County Youth Services, and the Business, Education, and Community Alliance (BECA). "The group feels it is important to support the community that encourages us," said Schaller. "We would love to see the club remain a viable and entertaining element within the community."
For information about the Guitar Club, call 301-934-7542 or 301-870-3008, Ext. 7542 for Charles County; 240-725-5499, Ext. 7542 for St. Mary's County or 443-550-6199, Ext. 7542 for Calvert County or email BobS (at) csmd.edu.