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Young musicians jam in front of nearly 1,000 fans
Singer and guitarist Rosie Reynolds has Michael Reeves give her guitar the once over. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin

MODESTO – In the catacombs behind the stage at the Modesto Center Plaza, Alex Orr and Ben Alfter made sure that their instruments were tuned and ready.

Surrounded by concrete that gave the duo the feel of legitimately being backstage at a major venue, the members of the band Stay the Storm were doing their best to not let the nerves of getting out in front of nearly 1,000 people get to them as they took the stage for Gordon Kennedy’s annual Summer Concert.

But when you love playing music, getting out there and sharing your passion is enough to keep people like Alfter on his toes as he gears up for the big performance.

“When you’re practicing you’re picturing a scenario like this – you’re going over everything and trying to put it all together to get that masterpiece,” Alfter said. “We’ve been practicing all summer long, and now this is our chance to show what we’re capable of.”

Through Janis Music Kennedy has become the unofficial Manteca guru of musical knowledge that covers just about every instrument known to man. It allows him to work with people individually if they’re looking for a more intimate experience and also allowing him to take the Rick Rubin-like approach of sitting in on the session and offering input when necessary (Kennedy shaved his Rubin-like beard prior to the event.)
The lessons are a year-long process but the summer program – culminated by the live performance that more than 900 people were treated to Sunday afternoon – holds a special place in Kennedy’s heart.

“It’s hard not to get a little emotional when you see all of these kids and that excitement and the jumpiness that they have as they’re getting ready to step up there,” he said, holding back tears. “We’ve got some people who have played here before, but getting the chance to see someone play live for the first time is an amazing feeling.

“All of these kids are talented and it takes a lot of courage of step up onto that stage to the first time.”

While it was his father that first opened the doors of Janis Music in Downtown Manteca during the heyday of small business, George Janis has continued the tradition that was initially set with his wife Inda by offering a plethora of music related items ranging from ethnic instruments to the private lessons that comprise a bulk of the business.

Even though his repair station near the back of the store – where he has the ability to take a Gibson Les Paul with a cracked neck and make it look it’s just getting polished and ready for packaging in Nashville – is his primary hangout when he isn’t helping customers, he often takes the short trip upstairs to the full band room to hear a solid session from one of Kennedy’s standout student bands that are often assembled quickly and thrive under his direction and leadership.

“I’m pleased with seeing so many people turning out to support these kids and their endeavors – it makes me a little bit emotional to see how many people we truly have here today,” Janis said. “Just walking around inside and seeing the kid with their instruments – some of them a little jumpy and nervous – is great to see because it shows that they love music and that they’re willing to step out in front of 1,000 people to show that even if they’ve never done it before.

“That feeling of playing live is something that they’re never going to forget.”

To contact Jason Campbell e-mail, or call (209) 249-3544.