christie pits jams

You can join live jam sessions with this Toronto music duo at the park

What started out as a Kijiji ad soon turned into a summer tradition for Christie Pits Jams, a Toronto music duo hosting live jam sessions at the park every week. 

Anyone who stops by, whether a singer or an instrument player, is welcome to join the group spontaneously. All of their jams are improvised, with up to six different people joining in at one time. 

"It's a free for all, there's no structure, but that's the fun of it," said Philippe Kwon, the drum player of the duo. "You're giving and you're listening, it's a like you're in an active dance with the music," he said. 

In May, Kwon was looking to get back into music after a 10-year hiatus. He came across a Kijiji ad posted by Alex Widder, a Toronto keyboard player, who wanted to find other musicians to jam with him at a park. 

Kwon, who lives in the area of Christie Pits, responded to the ad, offering to bring his full drum set to the park so the two of them could play. 

"We didn't even talk that much, we just showed up at the park and started playing," Kwon said. "For like two months, we didn't know much about each other, it was just about the music," he added. 

Playing instruments at the park, they quickly caught the attention of neighbours in the area, who began showing up regularly on Wednesday evenings to watch the duo perform. 

Every week since then, Kwon takes about 20 minutes to push over a cart filled with his drumming gear in order to get to the park and play. 

Some other instruments that have joined the jams include saxophones, guitars, steel drums and even a cello. The duo says a lot of people start singing to their own tune with whatever melody or beat the instruments are playing.  

"I make music in my room, and that's great, but realistically the best music is made when it's in relation to other people, when you're in the moment and grooving," said Widder. 

By the end of the summer, up to 100 people were coming out, a mix of families, kids and people on dates would join around Christie Pits Jams to listen in on their music sessions. 

"We really connected with everyone in the community," said Widder. "Being able to experience people's presence, without a screen in front of us and not over social media was really important," he added.

Christie Pits Jams has made a huge impact on the community, with some people coming up and saying how their music helped to turn around a bad day for them. 

One of the regulars who came to watch the musicians perform was a mother with a five-year-old son, who became fascinated with the way Kwon played his drums. He loved watching Kwon play so much that his mother ended up buying a mini drum set for him, so he could be just like Kwon. 

With the cooler weather settling in for the fall season, Christie Pits Jams is moving indoors to do their own independent jam sessions with other musicians they've met through the park. 

Their last performance outside is set to be the last Wednesday of this month.

But, by next Spring, when the warm weather comes again, and if lockdowns don't return, they'll be continuing the jam sessions in 2022. 

Lead photo by

Philippe Kwon

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