Online project GI JAMS makes sure troops’ music doesn’t stop
It’s not unusual to see troops passing the time during a lengthy deployment honing their musical skills, whether strumming a tune on an acoustic guitar or constructing a makeshift hip-hop studio in their sleeping huts.
GI JAMS, a new multimedia entertainment project, hopes to give these troops a way to showcase their work by giving them an avenue to share their music worldwide through the Web site www.GIJams.com.
Denny Randell and Biddy Schippers are the founders and co-directors of the project and hope to give back to the military community with what they know best: music.
They are the co-owners of DRC Entertainment Co. and their most recent dance hit, “Alice in Wonderland,” reached the top 10 on the Yahoo video charts. Randell, who was nominated this year to the Songwriters Hall of Fame, has written songs for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, for the Broadway play “Jersey Boys” and is listed as one of the writers of “Pass the Courvoisier,” performed by Busta Rhymes and P. Diddy.
The Web site allows current troops and veterans the chance to establish their own artist page, where they can upload songs, videos, photos, biographies and blogs. Participants can also sell audio and video downloads to fans and those who visit the site.
“With the tremendous pressures on the military, music can bring you back to a very important place,” Randell said in a recent phone interview. “It can be a very motivating or very calming thing to counterbalance some very difficult circumstances.”
Randell said that 100 percent of the downloaded net profits will go back to the servicemember who posted the music, and participating artists do not lose the rights to their songs when they participate on the site or sell their music through GI JAMS. The site hopes to assist by promoting the artists, their songs and performances in a variety of media including on CDs, television, radio and live venues.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Sam Norris has been playing acoustic alternative music with longtime friend Derek Stentzel since they were 18. Even though Norris is stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and Stentzel lives in Oklahoma, the two still manage to make music whenever possible under the name FIENDHAPPY.
When Norris heard about GIJams.com — which was launched in November — he said he was excited for the chance to expose his music to a greater audience.
“For guys like me that don’t have a lot of resources, it’s nice,” Norris said. “We jumped on the bandwagon pretty quickly.”
FIENDHAPPY has posted one complete album on the site and hopes to add another soon.
“This is the first time we’ve actually put something out where people can buy it,” said Norris. “We’re really proud to be a part of it.”
Ric Ulsky, a Vietnam Army veteran, was the first artist to sign up on GIJams.com. Ulsky has been playing music for almost 56 years, including touring with Chuck Berry as his piano player.
“What I hope to see happen, having put my music on this site, is for all my brothers and sisters in the military to see how easy and honest this whole thing is,” Ulsky said by e-mail. “It’s good for promoting your music, your life, your feelings, your beliefs, all sorts of good things.”