On Thursday evening in the place where they’ve gathered every week for six months, about 10 local high school students tuned their instruments.
Garrett Pugh wore a cowboy hat and strummed his guitar while fellow guitarist and metal fan Tom Hukriede rocked his air guitar.
A trio called Basically Sound, comprising Guerin Lewis, Daniel Melvin and Eric Samuelson, wore flat brim hats and warmed up their pop-acoustic tunes while two girls tuned a cello and a violin.
All of them had found music, and through that passion, found one another during weekly jam sessions in the old section of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Steamboat Springs.
“It’s a place to be who you are,” Melvin said about the gatherings, which stem from a youth group launched by resident and musician Henry Howard.
This past Thursday, about four acts played a small outdoor music showcase at the church in lieu of the annual Teen Battle of the Bands that was cancelled this year because of a lack of participation.
On a breezy evening with passers-by craning necks out of car windows, the students sang and played covers and originals they have been practicing all year as family and friends ate barbecued chicken and cheered them on.
“It’s really great because there’s no judgment,” said singer and Steamboat Springs High School junior Katie Ross. “It’s such a release for all of us. It’s the most fun part of my week.”
Howard has found that the jam session format has formed lasting bonds among the students.
“I started doing this youth group, but I didn’t want to just play games and eat pizza,” Howard said about launching the group last year. “And I’m really passionate about music. Now we have a core group of about 10 kids that play music in here, and that’s our youth group.”
The students have gone far beyond playing covers with their friends. Several of them have written their own songs with thoughtful, personal lyrics and catchy hooks.
Basically Sound had the crowd of about 50 tapping their feet along to “Heart Breaker,” and Ross kept them rapt with attention with her clear, youthful voice singing “You Can’t Ask Me,” a teenage ballad about growing up and finding direction.
At the end of the evening, just before it started to rain, the students gathered under the outdoor tent to collaborate on “Wagon Wheel” and “I Am Yours.”
A few weeks before, Howard had brought his recording equipment to the church and the group cut a six-track album that they handed out for free after Thursday’s showcase, giving many of the students their first recording experience.
While some of what the group plays is worship music — and they do share in prayer after they jam — the connection runs deeper than the usual youth group, Ross said.
“You come here and you share your most vulnerable side,” she said.
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com