A trombone-shaped brass kazoo, complete with moving slide, brought laughter and applause from the appreciative audience listening to Janis and Tim Falk. The musical duo, on the road from Des Moines, Iowa, played everything from the Grateful Dead to Patsy Kline. They were featured as part of a free Saturday-night concert series hosted by the St. James Coffee Shop.
“I wanted to find a way to invest and connect with our community and to introduce St. James to those who hadn’t found us yet,” says Brian Green, executive director at St. James Coffee. “Music has always been a great connector of people. A key component that drives us is the constant appreciation of beauty, and there are few things more beautiful than the gift of music.”
St. James Coffee is tucked away in a strip mall in Northwest Rochester. It boasts comfortable leather easy chairs, a stone fireplace, and inviting green walls. What might come as a surprise is that the shop is staffed by volunteer baristas. “I came in for a cup of coffee with a friend and found out they were looking for volunteers,” says Danielle Harless. Harless works as a realtor, but enjoys her time as a volunteer barista, especially during the Saturday night concerts.
In December, the concert series will feature talented local musicians including jazz guitarist Remi Moulder (with a CD release party for his Remind Me CD on Dec. 3), huggable rock and roll favorites Hair of the Dog (Dec. 10), and the Americana band Root River Jam (Dec. 17). The series takes a short break until January 7.
The concert series is sponsored by Thrivent Financial, White Space, and Sterling State Bank. Some of the shows in the concert series, including the series debut featuring Billboard-recognized Light45, had audiences numbering in the hundreds.
“It is not necessarily traditional mellow music that some associate with a coffee house,” says Randy Nelson describing the series. He’s a member of the St. James Concert Series planning team. To illustrate his point, Nelson says Root River Jam “played the roof off.”
The song-writer and charismatic front man for Root River Jam, David Wilson, says he thinks concert series like the one St. James is hosting are important: “When a community embraces its musical artists, it leads to building a larger connection to the arts as a whole.”
The coffee shop has a faith-based mission to “provide a welcoming space for non-Catholics and non-practicing Catholics to come to know Christ and His Church, and to provide a forum for Catholics to find fellowship and catechesis.” “We are a non-profit coffee shop. Our profits go to programs that invest and connect with our community. Our concert series is one of those programs. Our model is based on hospitality,” says Green.
“At our shows, you will see kids playing in our play area, first dates, and old friends,” says Green, “from newborns to retirees and everything in between;” then he reiterates, “Very few things connect people like music.”