Don Warren holds adult jam camps every three months at North Albany Studios on North Pearl Street in Albany (photo compliments of Don Warren)
Don Warren has a message for any senior who has wanted to learn how to play a musical instrument, but is too afraid to take lessons: don’t let fear hold you back.
Warren not only offers guitar lessons to students of all ages and abilities, but also offers adult music jam camps every three months at North Albany Studios on North Pearl Street in Albany, where people can get together and learn songs in a group setting.
Warren, who teaches guitar and bass at Drome Sound in Schenectady, said that he started the adult jams a couple of years ago when his adult students heard about the teen camps he held at Edie Road Studios in Argyle.
“The adults said, ‘Can we do some type of jam?’” said Warren. “So, we do a single thing where they get together from noon to 5 (p.m.) at a local recording studio … and they get together and work on the music that I help them put together. Simple stuff, but they have a good time playing with it, and they develop their skills while they’re doing it.”
Each jam session starts with a warm-up period, followed by a little bit of instruction from Warren. Then, the students work on whatever songs they want to play, be it covers or originals.
Warren said he averages 10 to 12 adults at his jam sessions, many of whom never played in a group before.
“Some of them are absolutely petrified (at first). And I start to realize that a lot of these people, wherever their station is in life, some of them may feel beaten down and some of them may never have had a lot of confidence in their lives and they’re very timid,” said Warren. “But, it’s such a relaxed atmosphere. So, what I offer for them to do before they come into camp is to come in on a lesson with me and another student who might be timid or of like minds and feelings. And those two get together and work together. And then, I’ll have another person join in at another point.
“Once they get comfortable (playing music) with two or three people in my room, then I tell them let’s take this up a notch — let’s take it to the camp.”
Warren said he tries to keep the focus on playing songs, rather than learning techniques.
“I always tell my students, don’t ever let me catch you practicing, but do let me see the results of your playing with the stuff that you’ve been getting,” said Warren. “It’s semantics, but it’s a mindset … It’s like video games. They get good at it not because they practice one move. They play it because they like it, and they get better. That’s what’s happening with these adults.”
And as they get better at their instruments, Warren said he sees a change in his adult students’ confidence levels.
“They just emerge, and it’s amazing. I’ve had letters and notes from their wives that other people they know are noting their transformation,” said Warren.
Learning how to play music has more benefits than just offering a confidence boost. Warren said music can also help reduce stress and offer adults a creative outlet that they never had before. Some of his students have even started to write their own songs.
The best part, said Warren, is watching his students start to think musically.
“Half these guys don’t even know they’re learning music theory, and then they say, ‘Wait a minute. A 1-3-5 makes a chord.’ … And then, they start talking (theory) amongst each other, and I act like I’m just as surprised as they are. It’s truly fun.”
Don Warren and his son, Michael, teach at Drome Sound on State Street in Schenectady. For more information about taking lessons, call 791-6185 or visit www.donwarrenmusic.com.
Associate editor/sports editor