The Mark LaRochelle Youth Open Mic presented by The Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation was back on the road on April 14th 2023. This month’s stop was Musician’s Workshop in Manalapan. They have an outstanding program run by James Striffolino. They are a full-service resource for musicians of all levels and ages, providing retail instrument and musical accessories sales as well as musical instruction for individuals and bands. JSJBF President Tom Baldino and Board Member Wayne Kessler were in attendance and the event is still coordinated by myself, board member Joseph Vincent Riggio. Jack Piccolomini, who runs the monthly Colts Neck Inn Blues Jam, also stopped in to show his support. As always it was an incredible night of fun, friendship, and music.
The space has an amazing vibe with music inspired murals on the floor, couches to relax on, along with a huge array of vinyl records, sheet music, and instruments for sale that the staff is always eager to assist you in trying on any number of amplifiers available in the shop. We had the pleasure of using the newly constructed stage complete with a more then full backline, great sound system and stage lighting! Diego is the resident audio engineer and he was pleased to donate his time for the night. He along with everyone else on staff made us all feel more then welcome.
First up on the stage was the youngest of the student performers, nine-year-old Olivia. She belted out 2 show tunes, “Home” from Beetlejuice and “Pulled” from The Addams Family, with power that left us all wondering where it came from given her age and diminutive size. She has been a student at the shop for two years plus and can be seen in local theater productions several times a year.
Next up was sixteen-year-old Zoe. She is a student of several music programs in the area including Musician’s Workshop and a very proficient bassist. She accompanied herself on a sweet Fender Precision and really funked the room up! She opened with Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” followed by Alman Bros. “Whipping Post,” “Dazed and Confused” by Led Zep, and closed with the Rufus R and B hit “Tell Me Something Good” where her voice really shined. She has already taken courses at Berklee School of Music in Boston and plans to return this summer for more instruction. We can’t wait to see how her musical career unfolds having already played with pros both on stage and in the studio.
Moving right along, twelve-year-old Liam came to play one for us on keys. He has been playing piano since he was four and has been a student at the shop for over 4 years. He expertly banged out the very demanding Billy Joel song “Prelude to an Angry Young Man.” Hitting all the breaks and changes seemingly effortlessly.
James makes sure (and prides himself on) Musician’s Workshop being an example of a program driven by and focusing on students. His entire staff is dedicated to providing quality instruction and musical services and act as mentors to young musicians. The community, families, and students adore the program and I am excited to return to see them on July 14th and October 13th to continue our friendship/collaboration.
The Mark LaRochelle Youth Open Mic is presented by the Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation the second Friday night a month providing the musical youth community a forum to perform in a fun, supportive, friendly and inviting environment. Next scheduled for May 12th 2023 Belmar Arts Center in Belmar NJ. Signup sheet available at 6:30 PM. Music happens from 7 PM – 10 PM.
$5 Donation to perform or attend (or $20 for a student membership that gets you in all year). Under 21 to perform. All ages welcome to enjoy.
Full backline provided. Musicians bring instruments and pedals. Music not limited to Jazz and Blues. For further information contact Joseph Vincent Riggio at 732-670-2157.
Follow us on Instagram at: @ jsjbf_youth_open_mic