Friday, 11:52 a.m.: as the sun begins its daily dose of punishment, I find myself on the Wyatt Deck, engulfed in shade. Surrounding me is a diverse crowd of mostly middle-aged strangers; some busy tuning their guitars or mandolins, others reenacting the Bob Dylan New Jersey incident. Thankfully, they think enough of me to assume that I know who Bob Dylan is. I am at the Arboretum Folk Music Jam Session.
Created and organized by Elaine Fingerett almost three years ago, these meetings serve as an opportunity for folk musicians of the Davis/Yolo community to come together and simply play. The sessions take place every other Friday from noon to 1 p.m. on the Wyatt Deck in the Arboretum.
In reference to these jam sessions, the term folk would best describe the instrumentation rather than a specific musical genre. During the brief hour, the group covered everything from Appalachian Folk and Irish Standards to Desmond Dekker’s “Israelites” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe.”
“These meetings are in no way formal,” said Gary Lee Wilson, who travels from Sacramento to attend the jams. “Last time, I brought in a Creedence [Clearwater Revival] song, and someone else brought in “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” I couldn’t get it out of my head for days.”
Patrick Foley, a Davis resident and professor who came with his son, Colin, revealed his motivation for attending the jam sessions.
“Between lecturing at Sac State and doing research at the Vet School, I don’t really have time to play anymore,” Foley said. “And when I do play at home, it tends to be electric. These jam sessions are a healthy departure. I don’t have any expectations. I don’t expect world peace, but you never can tell.”
By 12:30 p.m., a small crowd began to gather around the Deck, applauding, singing along and interacting with the performers. One audience member inquired about guitar lessons, while others shyly asked whether it was possible to join along in future sessions.
Elaine Fingerett illuminated the intent and nature of the folk jams.
“It’s a wonderful community, and is always changing,” Fingerett said. “We are very inclusive. We invite musicians at whatever level, a pick up session that is pretty much open to anybody. During the school year, we have a much more varied crowd, with students, professors and community members all participating.”
Aside from hosting the biweekly folk jams, Fingerett also performs in two Klezmer ensembles. A musician from a young age, she is adept at the accordion and ukulele, among other instruments.
To Fingerett, who also works as the Youth and Family Outreach Coordinator in the Arboretum, the actual location of the Wyatt Deck serves an important purpose.
“These Folk jams are an integral part of the UC Davis Arboretum GATEways Project, which aims to integrate Art and Music into the Arboretum setting.”
The purpose of the UC Davis Arboretum GATEways (Gardens, Arts and the Environment) Project is to use the setting of the gardens to “inform visitors about the important ideas and complex issues UC Davis scientists and scholars are tackling.”
The next Folk Music Jam will take place Friday, Sept. 4. For more information as well as directions and details, visit arboretum.ucdavis.edu.
BORIS FREYMAN can be reached at email@example.com.