Jul. 3—Veteran musician Lem Sheppard — known nationally for his style of blues, jazz, folk and classical playing — will kick off the JOMO Jammin' concert series Saturday, July 10, at Joplin's Mercy Park.
The Pittsburg, Kansas-based guitarist's 45-minute performance will begin at 7 p.m. Jomo Jazz, a local jazz band that plays a mixture of modern hits and original compositions, will perform at 8 p.m.
This will be the first of four outdoor concerts held each Saturday during July, each one pairing two local musicians or musical bands on stage.
"When we started planning the series, we asked prospective local artists about their availability on Saturdays in July," said Emily Frankoski, director of Connect2Culture, the organization behind the concert series. "We had specific pairs in mind but ultimately knew we couldn't control their availability. We were hopeful the stars would align, allowing complementary artists to perform together on the same nights. I think we did pretty good at that. Each musical group will definitely hold their own while complementing the artists they are paired with, lending to the overall atmosphere of the night."
Sheppard launched his career as a folk musician in the late 1970s and performed as an accompanist with the Eva Jessye Choir.
"The music I have been performing spans the classic blues era through the modern era. Most of the classic blues were actually early jazz sung by female jazz singers like Mamie Smith, who incidentally came through Joplin in 1922," Sheppard said Tuesday.
Across the nation and abroad, Sheppard has brought his historical folk music and storytelling to audiences of all ages, even performing at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
"I like this period in music because so much of what we listen to today grew out of everything that was going on around that time. Jazz, blues, spirituals and gospel, and bluegrass all have roots during this period," he said. "Many of the songs I sing, like 'Crawdad Song,' have been recorded by blues, folk, jazz and bluegrass bands."
The concerts were planned from the beginning to highlight local musical talent.
"We have been waiting for the right opportunity to spotlight local artists," Frankoski said. "Joplin has been home to a lot of talented people and continues to be. We want to celebrate that. Now that things are starting to open up again and tour dates are actually sticking, we see JOMO Jammin' as the kickoff to live performances in the area once again."
All four concerts are free to the public. While reservations — available at https://bit.ly/c2c-jomo-jammin — are appreciated, they aren't required.
"All people have to do is bring their own lawn chair with them and enjoy the music," Frankoski said.