Aspen immersion course aims to help budding teen musicians |

Aspen immersion course aims to help budding teen musicians

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Photo courtesy of Renee Ramge Photography
Renee Ramge |

Being a musician is a lot harder than many people realize.

There’s much more to it than hitting the right notes. Equipment has to be ferried from place to place. Venue owners must be appeased. Money from gigs usually isn’t all that great when you’re a local or regional player, as many Aspen pickers and singers will attest.

There are other potential stumbling blocks, including stage fright, hostile audiences and equipment breakdowns.

Aspen resident Jackson Emmer hopes to find a few willing high school students who are willing to spend the month of August in a professional music-immersion course. It aims to show them all the ins, outs and what-have-yous associated with being a musician.

Touring musicians Alison May, of Oakland, California, and Sam Moss, of Boston, will be in Aspen during August to perform with Emmer in the Justice Snow’s Americana Music Series on Sundays and Wednesdays. The trio, called Rough Monday, sometimes will be joined by other musicians. May and Moss will be assisting Emmer with the immersion program, Emmer said.

“The idea is that while they are here, they also will team up with the high school students and walk them through each day of what it’s like to do what they do,” Emmer said, “working on music, writing, recording and booking performances.”

Students also will be taught music theory, improvisation and jamming techniques. They will be expected to practice regularly, at least five hours per week, and must keep a journal to reflect on their experiences within the program.

In addition, they will compose original songs, recording at least two. In all, the course will require about 62 hours of the students’ time in August, roughly 15 hours per week.

“It’s meant to mimic what our lives are like as musicians,” Emmer said. “There’s no big secret to learning music; you’ve just got to be around it.”

Emmer ran a nonprofit organization focusing on arts and music education, Free Is Art, in Vermont between 2010 and 2012. It was open to low-income residents. He also has taught private lessons over the years.

His new program is available to Roaring Fork Valley residents between ages 14 and 19. The course fee is $1,900. Emmer would prefer to limit the class to a handful of students to achieve a small teacher-to-student ratio.

For more information, send an email to The application deadline is May 23.


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