Note: this article first appeared in the February 23rd, 2017 edition of the Okanogan Valley Gazette Tribune.
This past Friday, the Oroville Grange was bouncing with jamming musicians, dancing feet, and a whole lot of laughter.
The evening was rocking and rolling thanks to Noah Burnell and Joseph Enzensperger, who together organized the jam session and potluck.
The idea first took shape with Noah and his wife Heather. “Heather and I were sitting around and lamenting that we’d like to have a music party, but that it’d be impossible to get everyone up to our house this time of year,” says Burnell, who lives up in the snowy heights of Ellemeham Mountain. “Heather mentioned that Joseph had offered the Grange for events, so I sent him an email asking if anything like that would be possible. He jumped on board right away.”
Enzensperger, who is the Master of the Oroville Grange, recognized the jam as a perfect fit for his vision of the Grange’s role in the community. “It dovetailed beautifully into what I was imagining,” Enzensperger says. “I think the Grange should be a big music house, known for great live music. It’s right in line with what we think will make the Grange a vital part of the community again.”
The Grange was certainly bustling with vitality on Friday. The evening began with a rotating array of just a few musicians at a time, performing a wide array of music from gritty blues to lilting a cappella harmonies.
As the evening developed, the stage filled with more and more musicians each moment, as the diverse gathering of artists found their groove together. “That’s what jams are all about,” Burnell remarks. “It’s not about the individual performers, it’s about sharing music with other musicians and everyone joining in. It was really coming together there on Friday.”
At one point, with Lota Duarte leading nearly a dozen musicians in a rip-roaring rendition of “Old Time Rock and Roll,” the energy burst out into dancing, as folks listening jumped out of their seats to boogie on the dance floor.
The evening also included a potluck which, judging by the scarcity of leftovers at the end of the night, the crowd enjoyed just as much.
Enzensperger intends to keep the momentum alive and is already planning additional upcoming music events at the Grange. “We’re planning to bring in North Half for a great rock & roll dance on March 11th, a Saturday night. It’ll be an alcohol-free night, so we’re going to encourage the high school kids to come out too. North Half is a great local band, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Enzensperger and Burnell are also planning another jam night and potluck, scheduled for the evening of March 24th. “It would be great to continue this monthly,” Burnell notes. “I’m not sure what will happen once summer hits, just because there are so many events at other places. But if nothing else, it’d be great for this to be a regular winter series, when there’s more time and not as much else going on.”
Indeed, during the cold winter months – and as now, when traversing dirt roads can sometimes feel like trying to navigate a slushy mudslide – it’s a pure delight to come together with friends and neighbors for a night of great company and fantastic music. And the spread of delicious home-cooked food never hurts, either.
The Okanogan region’s widespread love for music is what makes opportunities like these possible. As Enzensperger puts it, “We’ve got so many people in the area that play music, and when they all show up like that it’s a guaranteed fun time… Even if you come feeling a little bit down, you’ll leave feeling like you’re on cloud nine.”
The crowd Friday night seemed to agree, given how reluctant folk were to leave. “We’d planned for it to be from 6pm to 9pm,” Burnell says, “but didn’t wrap things up until around 10pm because people were having so much fun.”
If you missed Friday’s jam, you’ll have plenty of opportunities coming up in the next weeks. Whether at the next Grange jam on March 24th, the rock & roll dance at the Grange on March 11th, or any of the other live music happening up and down Oroville’s Main Street in the coming weeks, there’s a continual supply of good times to be had. Just open up your ears, and follow the music.