First Impressions

Ashley Mackay here, excited to be writing the first blog entry for Intern Alley. In case we haven't met yet, I am a marketing intern for DiverseArts. My first entry is going to revolve around my first impression of our organization and I'll continue posting about our events and what we're involved in from here on out.

My first experience with DiverseArts Culture works took place during the summer of 2013. My roommate had just begun interning for the head of DiverseArts, Harold McMillan, and the stories she was telling me were starting to spark my interest in him and his organization’s mission. I decided to tag along with her to one of the weekly Blue Monday Blues Jams over at Victory Grill to see what was up. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect when I got there. I had heard her descriptions of Harold, of some of the men in the East Side Blues Syndicate, of what the Blue Monday Blues Jams were like in general, but I’m the type of person that has to see things for myself to get a feel for them. We pulled up to Victory Grill and I was greeted by the sight of who I would soon learn were regulars of the weekly Blues Jam smoking cigarettes and debating life outside.

One of the very first things I was confronted with when moving to Austin was a certain lack of representation of African Americans in the city. I’m what you would call an “army brat,” meaning that my father was in the army my entire life. I grew up with diversity and it’s something I greatly value about my upbringing. It has defined me and many of the major choices I’ve made, such as deciding to focus on studying other cultures during my undergrad career. That same appreciation for diversity drew me to DiverseArts that first night I was introduced to some of the key individuals with the non-profit. There were people from all different backgrounds drawn together by the same passion: music. Namely, jazz and blues music. Instantly we were drawn into the on-going conversation by the men smoking outside. Here is what I’ve learned about these conversations since that first night and here is what I mean by on-going: I mean every time you show up to a Blue Monday Blues Jam you will be welcomed to debate life with these gentlemen. The conversations will pick back up, maybe from a different point or perspective, but they continue every week in some respect. My advice to you is to join these men, light up a cigarette if you’re a smoker, maybe sip on a coca-cola if you’re not, and listen to them tell their stories. Maybe you’ll learn something and at the very least you’ll be in good company. Either way, you’ll leave the night having had some laughs.

That particular smoke break was over within a few minutes as the musicians trickled back in to play a set. My friend and I followed them in to watch them work their magic. In case you’re not sure how our weekly blues jams work, The East Side Blues Syndicate plays a set but so do the various musicians that come by to jam. There is always an array of talent, something different to sample every week. We took a seat as the guys took to the stage and as soon as they began playing I was stumped that I hadn’t heard of this weekly event before. I was enthralled and instantly wanted to share the experience, not an un-common response from a twenty one year old girl. So I did what I do best and pulled out my phone to take some Instagram videos, which I of course then shared to my Facebook and Twitter news feeds. I wanted everyone to come see what I was seeing and what I was seeing was a badass blues jam. I can describe to you their music, to some extent, but unfortunately I’m more of a music enthusiast less of a musician. I’ll be sure to post some videos of some of their jams to give you a better picture but if you’re anything like me you might just need to come see for yourself some Monday night when you’re craving a beer and good music. They blow me away every time.

Needless to say they hooked me from there and here I am now. I became an intern for DiverseArts Culture Works as soon as my relentless school schedule would let me and am excited for the upcoming spring events. I’m excited to be involved with the talented musicians in the East Side Blues Syndicate, to be involved with the artists and photographers that share their work in our art gallery out on east 5th; I’m excited to be involved in appreciating the culture of East Austin. If you’re ready to be excited too, you know where we are. We’ll be waiting to see you.