Meet The Fellows...

Jonathan (arm raised, waving) and the Millerton Knights,
photo by Sophie Schecter of the Lakeville Journal

Jonathan Grusauskas - Jubilation 2012 retreat video
Millerton, New York
Fellowship: 2012/2011

"Music is a social glue," says Jonathan. "What can we achieve with just one weekly musical meeting and exchange of ideas within our communities?"

Jonathan lives and breathes music everyday. "Music has been a passion of mine since fifth grade," he says. As a founder of the Music Cellar, an underground music school and rehearsal space in Millerton, New York, he teaches music classes, and hosts Sunday Samba Sessions and Toddler Jams. His trio, lespecial, regularly performs and teaches master classes and workshops. He also arranges music and leads weekly rehearsals for the Millerton Knights, a funk ensemble of 6- to11-year-olds who play everything from Afro-beat to Michael Jackson. Sometimes the Music Cellar is so full of grooving musicians of all ages that it spills out into the streets.

"They need to be up!" says Jonathan. "Moving! Grooving! Laughing! Miming! Trading moves back and forth!"

"Planting a positive musical seed in a child's mind will have the surest and most powerful impact on the world," he says. "Just ten minutes of sitting down with a child at a piano or drum will stick with them easier and longer than you think. And it's not just about the music," he says. "The real kicker is that it helps these kids grow into self-reliant, self-empowered people who fight for happiness and community."

Jonathan's infectious enthusiasm for the joy of "collective musiking," as he calls it, encourages participatory music making. In addition to his Music Cellar activities, Jonathan organizes community potluck events with a live, mobile, inclusive brass band. A proponent of un-tuning nobody (from the book Born to Groove by Charlie Keil) he does not want to discourage a single child from making music.

"I want to give children the opportunity to get bitten by the bug of musical action the way I did," he says. "We've got to give kids something they can build on their whole lives, something that makes them feel part of something and fully alive, an outlet they can utilize for healing and bonding, instigators of their own creative wills and wishes."

Jonathan's attitude has a ripple effect. "I got a phone call from a man the day after a Millerton Knights performance. He said, 'I want to learn to play the bass like that little guy!' referring to the 7-year-old electric bass guitar player. He bought a bass guitar and started taking lessons!"


Jonathan is Reading:
Keyboard instruction manuals and online articles
The Bhagavad-Gita
Singing Neanderthals by Steven Mithen
The World in Six Songs by Daniel Levitin
Born to Groove by Charlie Keil, as well as lectures from his trip to Japan
RELIX magazine
Radiohead blog

Jonathan is Listening to:
Soulive, Lettuce, and other artists on the Royal Family Label
High-level electronic music
Artists utilizing Ableton live software
Flying Lotus: "Alice Coltrane's nephew, an electronic music producer whose hazy beats and off-kilter rhythms reek of humanness, even though created using computers"
Blue Boy Productions
Fela Kuti records
Worlds of Music compilations: "Tuvan throat singing, Pygmy rainforest songs, field recorded blues tunes from the Old South"

Jonathan is Looking at:
The mystic art of Alex Grey in the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, Wappingers Falls, NY

Jonathan is Watching:
TED conferences, particularly Sir Ken Robinson's video, Are Schools Killing Creativity? "He provides the soundest support for the Jubilation Mission," says Jonathan. "He details one little girl who displayed some hyperactive movement and was brought to a doctor. Fortunately he diagnosed her as a dancer! She grew up to become a virtuoso, start her own dance company, tour the world, and is now a multi-millionaire. Another doctor may have told her to take a pill and calm down."

(interviewed 2011)

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