The Subway sandwich shop on High Street is not just home to discounted subs. On Wednesday nights, the Ohio State jam session jazz combo performs in the storefront.
Beginning this semester, the combo has been playing backing band for jam sessions at the Subway located at 1952 N. High St. The trio of performers receives credit through the School of Music for participating in the combo, which invites other musicians to jump in on the fly during its performances. The jam sessions, which take place Wednesdays from 7 to 9:30 p.m., previously took place at Woody’s Tavern on campus.
“It was just a matter of having a place to play,” said combo director Anthony Stanco, a lecturer in the School of Music. “We needed someplace close so our students could get there easily. You don’t have to drive, you can walk right there from the music building.”
Stanco, who often performs alongside the students, began the jam sessions in spring 2016 with the goal of giving students a place to perform and to build community. The jam session combo — consisting of piano, drums and bass — performs on its own for about an hour, and invites other musicians to join in the second hour of the set. They all take turns playing the melodies and solos for well-known jazz songs.
Stanco said Woody’s served as a fitting venue with a convenient location because it came pre-equipped with a stage and lighting. However, Woody’s wasn’t available on Wednesdays this semester, Stanco said.
Stanco looked for locations close to campus and found the Subway location, which has an upstairs seating area with carpeted floors, and arranged the event with management.
“They were really receptive of it,” Stanco said. “They actually give a deal to everybody who comes, plays and participates in the jam session in any way — a 20 percent discount.”
While holding jam sessions in a Subway restaurant did come as a shock to some, attendees have warmed up to the idea.
“I saw it was at Subway, I’m like ‘Is he (Stanco) serious?’” said Tony McKrimmon, a jazz musician and Capital University alumnus who attends the jam sessions. “It’s kind of relaxed. Not as many students that aren’t paying attention.”
Some students did note that Woody’s had some advantages over Subway. Laura Sayre, a third-year in mathematics, said that while she appreciates the new location, she misses the larger number of spectators that came to Woody’s.
“The only people who come now are the people who play at (the jam session) because it’s not as known,” she said
Stanco said the Subway location does not get as much foot traffic as the Ohio Union, though he hopes that will improve as more people become aware of the jams. He added that the audiences at Subway tend to be more interested in jazz and less likely to talk over the music as opposed to the Woody’s audiences, allowing for more communication between performers.
Anthony Jackson, a fourth-year in physics, said the smaller groups and easier communication provide him and other attendees with increased opportunities to improve themselves as musicians.
“It’s a huge learning experience,” he said. “This is probably one of the only exposures of jazz music, live jazz music, I have in my week.”
Stanco emphasized the importance of having opportunities for students to learn from real playing experiences outside of the classroom.
“It seems like there’s a need on campus for this kind of session,” he said. “You can talk about music as much as you want, but until you get up and actually try it with other musicians in real time, it’s a totally different thing.”