Featured Artist of the Month
September - Jeremiah Wenger
By Sue Clements
If you’ve enjoyed live music this summer in the West Michigan area you’ve probably heard Jeremiah (Jerry) Wenger play. The man's busy. He shares his talents with several local bands; Hannah Rose, The Ryne Experience, Austin Benzing, Future Skeletons, and Sally Ann Company, to name a few. He has long, red hair but more notable are his guitar skills. This guy plays with obvious technical ability, but there’s definitely so much more.
He was fun to interview – at ease, interesting, and so smart. “I’m a for-hire musician pretty much,” he shared. Jerry calls himself a multi-instrumentalist, playing drums, bass, and guitar. When asked what instrument was his favorite to play, he shared, “Usually guitar is my most expressive instrument. You play a lot more melody lines, so you can put a lot more emotion into the song. With bass and drums you have to hold down the fort. I feel like the job of the guitar player is to make people think about it and feel it more.”
Jerry shares that he doesn’t recall his earliest ‘music’ memory. It’s always been a big part of his family life. Regularly, there were people jamming in their backyard. They went to festivals and his dad played in bands. “My sister and I ran around the festivals on our bikes.” He remembers being just a little guy, getting “up on stage, and slapping a guitar to make a bunch of noise.”
He started playing drums when he was seven, later on picking up bass guitar. In middle school, Jerry was part of a band called The Offsiders. He shared that they “played in public at a few places that don’t exist anymore” and spent time “busking in downtown Lowell along the riverwalk and at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids.”
Jerry was involved in the Orchestra, Fiddle Club, and Lowell’s Fusion Rock Orchestra. Starting out in middle school Orchestra, he and about 10 other kids all hoped to play percussion. Jerry ended up playing ‘double bass’. The upright bass was a new instrument for him. He credits his time in school music programs with really building his skills. During our interview, he circled back to youth music programs in school. He talked about the importance of getting kids into music at a young age and the opportunity music offers as a healthy way to express themselves.
He has a full schedule. I asked what a typical week looked like for him. The week starts with practice or rehearsals. He goes to open mics to connect with other musicians. Wednesday through Saturday he’s out there playing, often with a different band each night. Jerry seems to thrive in this craziness saying, “It keeps things fresh for sure… It certainly brings you out of your box and makes you think more.” Oh, he also installs granite countertops to help pay the bills.
Constantly challenging himself, Jerry is up for opportunities to step up to the plate, expand his skills, and be creative. Catch him playing improv with Future Skeletons and there's a good chance that you’ll hear something fresh, new, and just for that moment in time.
Jerry was quick to answer the question of what qualities make a good guitarist. He shared, “The ability to listen - listen to what other people are doing in the group. The ability to not play, to sit back and listen to everyone else. Also, the ability to not show off.” He continued, “It’s just like having a conversation. You don’t want to talk over the other person. You want to let everyone else in the group shine just as much.” “Lots of times the drive home has no music,” he shared. “Just need to let the ears take a break for a minute.”
Jerry is looking forward to going into the studio to record this fall with Y-not, a full collective band. Also, he’s part of a Hannah Rose album that’s due to be coming out this fall.
No doubt Jerry Wenger is all there with his music - engaged, delighted, and working hard. He does not take his career for granted. Interviewing him, I was impressed with the way he seems to celebrate each moment and look at music as the gift it is.
You can see Jerry’s talents for yourself at the LowellArts Gallery Concert on Saturday, September 24 with Hannah Rose (details can be found at lowellartsmi.org/gallery-concerts).
Look for him playing locally. You’ll be so glad you did.
9/1 – Ferris State University with Austin Benzing
9/3 – Pond Jam with Hannah Rose
9/3 – Ethanology with Austin Benzing
9/4 – Big Fam Fest with Hannah Rose
9/6 – Flanagans Residency with Austin Benzing
9/7 – Tip Top Open Mic with Hannah Rose
9/13 – Kentwood Food Truck Festival with Hannah Rose
9/13 – Flanagans Residency with Austin Benzing
9/14 – Tip Top Open Mic with Hannah Rose
9/17 – Perrin Brewing with Austin Benzing
9/17 – Bands at Blandford Nature Center with Hannah Rose
9/18 – The Deck in Muskegon with Hannah Rose
9/20 – Flanagans with Austin Benzing
9/21 – Tip Top Open Mic with Hannah Rose
9/24 – LowellArts show with Hannah Rose
9/25 – Coopersville Farm Museum with Sallie Ann Company
9/27 – Flanagans with Austin Benzing
9/28 – Tip Top Open Mic with Hannah Rose