Meet The Fellows...

Jason McInnes
Chicago IL
Fellowship: 2018/17

“All people are born musical in their own way,” says Jason, “but they need time and space to explore their musical language.” A veteran music educator, Jason creates improvised musical gatherings and performance opportunities for people of different ages and backgrounds to play music together.

He begins by using and providing simple folk songs and instruments to create a path for musical exploration. These shared musical experiences knock down barriers between generations, between amateur and professional, between performer and listener, and between differences in spoken language.

“I focus on ‘why make music’ instead of the more typical question of ‘how to make music,’” he says. “I see it as a way to bridge cultural, linguistic, and generational chasms in society.”

Jason’s inspiration comes from growing up in a family affected by autism, where music supported family connections in ways that spoken language and physical intimacy could not.

A multi-instrumentalist, Jason is a faculty member at Jubilation Foundation grantee Old Town School of Folk Music, where he created several programs to support music making for families, and reinvigorated the youth guitar program. He founded the Young Stracke All-Stars in 2008, which consists of musicians ages 9-13. Jason provides master classes with national artists, and concerts and community music-making opportunities to group members, their families, and the public. He also leads harmonica and songwriting residencies at public schools.

Teaching philosophy:
“To help people become musical leaders in their communities and connect to their musical legacies; looking to their roots as they move forward in their musical lives.”

How do you produce a vibrant learning environment?
“I have to embrace chaos and put myself in situations where everything is new.”

How do you foster youth leadership?
“I work hard to build a community where I am merely a guide, rather than the leader.”

How have you evolved as a teacher?
“I continue to push the boundaries of my abilities. I have never been one to sit back and say, ‘OK, now I know how to do this.’ With every answer comes a million new questions and that is what keeps me motivated.”

What is an example of a good day teaching kids?
“The best days are when the students see that they can do much of the work of learning to play without me.”


(interviewed 2017)

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