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Behind the Scenes

College hosts community music night

The African drumming group Khakatay will take part in the next informal music session at Bridgewater State. The African drumming group Khakatay will take part in the next informal music session at Bridgewater State. (David Diamante/Bridgewater State)
By Robert Knox
Globe Correspondent / October 13, 2011

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A series of informal music sessions at Bridgewater State University invites people from on and off campus to make music together at midweek gatherings devoted to different musical themes.

The Wednesday-night sessions are free, everyone is welcome, and they take place in a club-type setting within the Rondileau Campus Center.

The program’s biweekly schedule features sessions on blues, African drumming, Irish music, jazz, and Brazilian music. Each has a leader with musical street cred in that genre.

“We have a core group of people to hold everything together,’’ said professor Donald Running, the program’s initiator. “People invite friends. They bring their instruments, or they want to sing a song. The African drummers bring their drums. The Irish [session] people bring acoustic guitars.’’

So far the core group is largely the college’s music students. But the music department wants to expand the program’s draw into the greater community to bring in area musicians and musical aspirants. Session leaders are looking for people who want to play or simply wish to check out a session to see if they might want to play in the future.

“We’re looking to attract high school students who would like to play with college musicians. It’s more about playing together than performing for an audience,’’ Running said. “People can just show up and check it out. Sit down and do some homework in the background.’’

The next session, on Oct. 26, is African Drumming, lead by music department head Salil Sachdev, who teaches two classes in African drumming at Bridgewater State.

“He brings tons of extra drums and passes out shakers,’’ Running said. “Everyone gets in a circle and everyone joins in.’’

Sachdev also leads the drumming ensemble Khakatay, consisting of a dozen advanced-class students who travel to perform at various events.

“Khakatay means ‘laughing out loud’ in Senegal,’’ Sachdev said. The group performs traditional rhythms used for rituals and celebrations in the West African countries of Guinea, Senegal, Mali, and Ivory Coast.

A popular and mobile group, Khakatay is sent out as an ambassador of the college’s music program, Running said. Members simply bring their drums and get on the van.

So far the Irish music session, led by the performing duo Stephen and Susan Lindsay of Plymouth, has been the model for drawing off-campus participation to the program.

“We definitely have people come out for the Irish session,’’ Sachdev said. “[The Lindsays] have a pretty good following on their own. They e-mail and advertise their events.’’

Susan Lindsay, who teaches in the college’s music department, plays traditional Irish flute and whistle and also saxophone - an instrument that adds an interesting voice to the Celtic repertoire. Guitarist and vocalist Stephen Lindsay grew up in Dublin, where he mastered the traditional Irish ballad style. They released their first CD, “From the Green to the Blue,’’ last year.

The next Irish music session is Nov. 30.

The blues session is led by local blues musician Chuck Ochs, who organizes blues jams for various area groups. His expertise is prewar acoustic blues, “but he can play anything,’’ Running said. The fall blues session took place last week. The next scheduled one is Feb 29.

Running, a trombonist, will lead the jazz session on Nov. 16. He also directs the college’s Wind Ensemble, a group of 50 players who will perform their fall concert on Oct. 27 at Horace Mann Auditorium in the college’s Boyden Hall. The program includes a powerful 20th-century piece, “Diversion’’ by Bernhard Heiden, featuring an alto sax solo by Mary Jo Running, Running’s wife.

Tom Rohde, who teaches guitar at Bridgewater State, leads the sessions in Brazilian samba music. His performance repertoire and research interests stretch from classical to world music and jazz.

The midweek sessions take place in a room with the size and atmosphere of a small café, Donald Running said. It has a dozen tables, some 40 chairs, and a small stage.

Organizers have been careful not to turn the sessions into a concert setting with a divide between performers and audience.

“But we don’t want to discourage people from dropping by’’ to listen, Running said. The sessions are somewhere between a real concert and “just goofing around.’’

For college students, Running said, in addition to a chance to play with a group, the sessions are an opportunity to meet new people and make connections.

“Some get gigs out of this,’’ he said.

And some get munchies. The college says free coffee, lemonade, chips, salsa, and hummus are provided at all sessions.

Robert Knox can be reached at

Midweek Music Sessions One Park Ave.

Rondileau Campus Center

Bridgewater State University

African Drumming, Oct. 26, 7 to 9 p.m.

Free; light refreshments