Since 2005 residents in Jamestown have collaborated in a musical endeavor that brings musicians of all ages and all abilities together to create impromptu bands. It’s called Band in a Hat and was the brainchild of JAM, that’s the non profit, Jamestown Area Artists and Musicians. Laura Williams, president of JAM, her daughter Elise, who has participated in the kids band, and long time band in a hat musician Jay Brotherton join us to talk about how Band in a Hat got started and its impact on the community.
Laura says the idea was originally proposed by Nancy Farmer in 2005 who wanted to try playing people in random bands and having a concert. “And so the concept of Band in a Hat was born. Basically musicians sign up for one instrument category of their choice and then we have a drawing date where we put all of those instruments in various hats, we pull one musician from each hat and that forms a band. That band then has 6 to 8 weeks to come up with a half hour set for the show.”
While Band in a Hat incorporates musicians of all talent levels into the same mixing pot, the overall goal is to participate in an enjoyable event and to have fun. No matter what music a band will play, their music will still be enjoyed by the audience at the event.
On top of the regular Band in a Hat program, there is also a kids band that is formed. Instead of drawing from a hat, all kids that register are immediately placed into the kid band. Sometimes there are several kid bands focused on different age groups such as 6 through 8, but other times, like this year’s event, there’s just one large kid band that consists of all the children participating. The kid bands let the kids pick out songs, learn those songs, and then perform them before the adult performance.
Elise Williams, Laura’s 12 year old daughter, has been playing in these kid bands for 6 years. “I play keyboard, drums, guitar, ukulele, and singing. Mainly it’s the only time I play in the group, but sometimes I play with my parents in a band. I love it. It’s so much fun to get to play with my friends and collaborate and get together and make really nice music, and work on it until it’s near perfect. And then we get to share it with the rest of the community.”
Jay Brotherton, a long time Band in a Hat musician, is often in demand as a bassist to complete a group. He says that while he’s been a part of many different bands over the years, his favorite one happened to be one that began as a Band in a Hat band. “You’re always on deck for a band or two, but I’ve gotta be honest, my favorite one started as a Band in a Hat band. We got an all star lineup one year, we were almost worried people thought we were cheating or something, we got the really good ones. It was Laura and her husband Tom and a bunch of other really just top flake musicians and we actually kept that band going after the event. We had so much fun with it, and it was a really big turnout year for that too, so that band I think at its height ended up having about 13 different members.”
The Band in a Hat annual event has the goal of bringing the people of Jamestown out of the winter blues and together as a community, and including this year’s event will be in its 15th year. More information can be found on the Band in a Hat website, their facebook page, or by emailing Jamforthearts@gmail.com.