By JESSICA A. BOTELHO
FALL RIVER – “This is a large scale show for such a young group, and I hope people will come out to see them,” Todd Salpietro said of TJ’s Music Concert Night, set for Dec. 6th beginning at 7 p.m. at the Narrows Center for the Arts located at 16 Anawan Street in Fall River, Mass.
The show will feature TJ’s All-Star Band, which is comprised of at least 35 children ranging in age from 10 to 19 who take music lessons at TJ’s Music. The students have been divided into groups and will be performing a few songs apiece.
“It’s not like, ‘Oh, look at the kids. They are cute.’ No – they are rocking,” Salpietro said. “These kids are good.”
Salpietro is the owner and operator of TJ’s Music, a music shop at 347 South Main Street in Fall River that opened in 1997. He used to play drums for Trendkill, an international acclaimed tribute to Pantera, and offers music lessons, as well as sells instruments and music gear, to musicians and aspiring artists alike. These days, he devotes his time to TJ’s. Currently, about a dozen staff members teach more than 300 students a week.
To help their youngest students develop skills that allow them to succeed as members of bands, Salpietro created “Jam Night,” a music program at his shop about three years ago. Every Tuesday evening, students of all ages visited the store and played together, along with their teachers.
During lessons, students learned the basic fundamentals about their instruments. But at “Jam Night,” they got a flavor of what it’s like to perform with a full band.
“I used to watch them and they’d take their half hour lesson and go home,” he said. “I’m like, ‘They’re not in bands; they don’t play with anybody and these kids are great players.’ So, I said, ‘We’ve got to get these kids in, put them together in groups, and see what we can make happen.”
Using a 25-foot stage that’s located on the second floor of the shop, as well as a full PA system and light set, the children got the opportunity to get a feel for what it’s like to perform as a band. After a few months, Salpietro said the students got the hang of it and were performing comfortably with other musicians. Some of them even formed bands together aside of “Jam Night.”
“Getting them together to play gave them a goal,” said Salpietro.
To further give the children a chance to shine, Salpietro chatted with Patrick Norton, the Executive Director of the Narrows, as Norton recently stopped by the store. He once took music lessons there, along with his children.
“He came in one day and started talking about the kids and said, ‘Would you maybe want to do a show at the Narrows?’” Salpietro said.
For Salpietro, agreeing to the gig was a no-brainer.
“It’s the greatest venue locally,” he said. “The kids are going to play on a real stage, with real lights. They are all going to leave with band photos and action shots of themselves playing.”
In no time, Salpietro and his staff began prepping the children for the show. Students signed up for a 12-week program that started in September, and visited the store every Sunday afternoon from 3 to 5 p.m. to practice as groups.
“This program really works out a lot of bugs for kids,” he said. “If you’re learning how to play with a bass player and you’re a drummer, you know what to listen for. You watch the singer and see the singer’s cues.”
Not only does the experience teach them how to further develop musical skills, the children have made close friends and are learning the importance of teambuilding. Additionally, it helps them build confidence.
“I’ve had kids that were lacking stage confidence, as well as confidence in life, and we were able to get them to play together,” Salpietro said. “They are not scared to get on stage anymore. They get up there and are running the entire show. It’s amazing. It’s been a huge hit. They are working together. I see them talking things out, and that to me is just magic. I love seeing these kids grow.”
Since he created the program, participating students were invited to play on WSAR, a radio station in Massachusetts. They played live in the studio twice, and performed during Fall River Mayor William Flanagan’s slot, per Flanagan’s request. From there, Flanagan invited them to perform at the third annual 2012 ‘Eat 2 the Beat Festival,’ a summer showcase which consisted of New England tribute acts such as Dirty Deeds, Klassik Kiss, Scarab, and more.
“The kids did a great job,” said Salpietro. “They were unbelievable. They got a lot of recognition.” The students also appeared on Fall River Community T.V., and are set to take part in the Fall River Christmas Parade on Dec. 1.
Salpietro said the children are excited about the parade, as well as the Narrows show. To purchase tickets, which are $10 each, visit http://www.narrowscenter.org.
“The tickets are selling like wildfire,” said Salpietro, noting that he’s looking forward to the Narrows gig, too, and is hoping it is the first of many shows like it. “I do this because I think it’s something that they need. I enjoy introducing them to the other side of it. I have tons of experience playing and touring, and it’s a great way for me to share that side of my professional life.”
Learn more about TJ’s Music, as well as the program, at http://www.tjsmusic.com or call 508-673-9100.