Wineries Offer Opportunities for Student Musicians

Wineries in Walla Walla are popular among tourists and locals for their artisan wine sampling, but there’s another attraction to be found at wineries: music. Whitman students have been playing gigs around town at some of the local wineries, and they say it offers a nice change of pace. These winery gigs also provide steady work for student musicians looking for places to play around Walla Walla, and the town’s rich variety of wineries provides plenty of opportunities.

Junior Aaron Stern, a guitarist in student rock band Annie Ocean, has played several gigs both on campus and off. At wineries, he plays jazz.

“Mostly they want you just to be background noise,” said Stern. “But there are definitely some people who appreciate it.”

Junior Jason Morrison, the pianist in the Whitman jazz ensemble and other musical groups, expresses similar sentiments about winery gigs. Last year, he and his band, The Confections, played a lot of gigs at wineries. Some of his favorites were Olive, Vintage Wine Cellars and Charles Smith Wines. Morrison noted that wineries have an expectation that the music will not blow away the crowd with noise.

“You need to be able to play sparsely and quietly,” said Morrison. “It’s definitely different than playing on a big stage.”

Despite the different atmosphere, Morrison seemed to see the change of pace as a fun challenge with a responsive audience.

“I love playing at wineries,” said Morrison. “A lot of people have  appreciation for jazz at wineries, so it’s nice to have an audience that understands the music, and the atmosphere is great.”

Sophomore drummer Cam Hancock has also played gigs at wineries. He also noted the tendency to be playing background music, but said there are other benefits.

“[Playing at wineries] has its advantages,” said Hancock. “I’ve found that everyone doesn’t really have an ear for [jazz], but you meet those guys who are really digging it and know what to listen for. It’s a different kind of gratitude.”

Although student musicians at wineries are not the main attraction, they appreciate the change of atmosphere and jazz-savvy patrons. When wineries host gigs, the wineries draw in more customers, the customers are entertained and the students get paid to play in a cool environment. Morrison, who recently returned from a semester abroad, is looking forward to playing more winery gigs soon.

“Now that I’m back,” he said, “we can’t wait to get going again.”




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