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Smells Like Indie Spirit

Spanning a variety of genres, Tulsa Little Jam gives listeners a chance to get a good sample of what Tulsa musicians have to offer while also supporting music education in Tulsa public schools.

G.K. Hizer
Marc Rains
February 28, 2019

If you’re looking for a way to find out what Tulsa’s local music scene has to offer, that process just got easier. In July 2018, Tulsa Little Jam launched as both an audio podcast and streaming videocast with new episodes released on a weekly basis, each featuring a different Tulsa artist.

The concept came together when a trio of friends put their heads and talents together for the purpose of helping students and spotlighting local talent in a new and creative manner. Founder Carlos Moreno, host and producer Juan Reinoso, and publicist/storyteller/organizer Meg Sutherland make a formidable team, not only having the vision, but the skills to put a multi-media production together with the help of presenting sponsor, Improving Lives Counseling Services.

The concept behind Tulsa Little Jam is fairly simple: Think a hybrid mix of Austin City Limits and NPR’s Tiny Desk, all with Tulsa talent. On the front side is a concert with three featured artists, each including a brief interview segment, and all recorded in front of a live audience in an intimate venue. The show is recorded and produced for three individual episodes, one spotlighting each artist, and released as an audio-only podcast on Mondays, followed by the full, streaming video production released across YouTube, Vimeo, and Apple TV on Tuesdays.

The Tulsa Little Jam team: Meg Sutherland, Carlos Moreno and Juan Reinoso. (Photo: Marc Rains)
The Tulsa Little Jam team: Meg Sutherland, Carlos Moreno and Juan Reinoso. (Photo: Marc Rains)

So far, the concerts have been held and recorded at the private theater inside the Woody Guthrie Center. The first concert was held in September 2018, featuring Branjae, Dane Arnold & The Soup, and Roots of Thought. An October 2018 concert spotlighted Nightingale, Casii Stephan, and The Brothers Moore, and January 2019 brought a double show with Weston Horn & The Hush, Alexis Onyango, and Cliffdiver in the first half, followed by Grazzhopper, Jeremiah Kerby, and Smoochie Wallus.

The first season closes March 2 with Eric Himan, Paul Benjaman Band, and Alaska and Madi. 

All shows are all-age events and tickets are $25.

“About five years ago, my friend’s son was going to Wright Elementary School and he wanted to join the music program, but there were no instruments for him,” Moreno says. “I thought we should do a concert with the proceeds donated to the school to buy instruments. We got it all set up, and two days before the show, the ABLE Commission [Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement] shut down the restaurant venue. It all fell apart. I pretty much put the idea away until this past summer when, after a fundraiser, the three of us were talking at Cosmo Cafe and I brought the idea up again.”

Once the trio came together on the idea, it started growing from a single concert, to a series, to a podcast, and to a video series.

“At this point, it’s bigger and better than I ever dreamed, but it’s all happening because the stars aligned,” Moreno says. “It’s the right time and place with the right people.”

Response is everything on a project like this and according to Sutherland, the response has been overwhelming. “If it wasn’t for the response, we wouldn’t be able to make this happen. People want it,” she says. “It all boils down to the right timing and a degree of excitement we’re seeing from people in response to what we’re doing.”

Granted, part of what makes everything work is the format and without a good host, it could all collapse. Fortunately, Reinoso is more than just a producer, but also just the kind of lively personality that can tie it all together.

“Juan is very much himself on camera,” says Sutherland. “He’s funny and a little self-deprecating, which makes him very approachable and creates a safe space for the artists. People are comfortable with him, which lets their back story come out.

“In turn, I get a great response from the artists and some great audience questions as well, because everyone’s comfortable.”

It’s been admittedly a little surprising to Reinoso, as the artists have been willing to open up more than expected.

“When I interviewed Joey Duffy from Cliffdiver, I thought it would be this serious conversation about music and the creative process,” says Reinoso. “But as he opened up, we wound up having an incredibly deep conversation and psychological examination of art, which was really cool.”

A big part of the reason everything works so well is because everyone involved approaches it professionally. All of the bands are paid for their performances and the crew is paid accordingly. That gives everything from the performances to the production a professional feel and look, which puts Tulsa Little Jam a step ahead of other project in the past with a similar focus.

“Without an experienced producer, this wouldn’t have happened,” Moreno says. “When we were looking at it as a concert or a project, Juan thought of it as a show and that focus has helped it all come together.

“I think the quality of the crew and the audio and video recordings have all come together in a way that it’s something that Tulsa’s music scene deserves. The pieces just hadn’t come together previously. This fills a niche that wasn’t there before.”

Just recently, Moreno was reminded again why they started Tulsa Little Jam.

“My daughter is at Edison, and it’s the same situation this year and I’m left thinking, but this is Edison, a nice school in midtown,” he says. “My daughter is in the band and she’s fine, but she said they’ve got a lot of instruments that are rusted out or broken and haven’t been repaired. This is in midtown, and they still don’t have the budget for their school music programs.”

And that’s why Tulsa Little Jam exists. Yes, it provides a good opportunity and some great exposure for local musicians, but its primary aim is to raise funding for after-school music programs. Proceeds from ticket sales go to school funding. The production costs and further funding come from local sponsors and securing further sponsorship not only ensures further seasons for the show’s production, but also larger donations to the music programs. That’s why the involvement of presenting sponsor, Improving Lives Counseling Services, is so important. Improving Lives understands the importance of this program as their services include music and art therapy.

Tulsa Little Jam