February 5, 2023

The thick smell of pepperoni and cheese usually wafts from the Coz-E Corner, which adjoins Subway and Pizza Pizza at Conestoga’s Doon campus. But recently it was filled with the sweet sound of live music.
It is the birth-twangs of a musical community consisting of employees at the college.
The initiative was started by Erin Caldwell, a human resources employee, and Dave Smiderle, chair of the School of Business and Hospitality.
“It’s a time for employees to come together and share creativity with one another, and foster some relationship-building through music sharing,” said Caldwell, who has a degree in music and sings professionally outside of her day job at the college.
Smiderle said, “We started these jam sessions as a way to continue building our community here at the college. It doesn’t matter what department you work for, whether you are faculty, management or administration. What matters is your willingness to share a piece of yourself and a willingness to take a risk by doing so. By connecting in this way, we are strengthening our college as a whole.”
The pizza and sub shop were putting away their dough and toppings when the first musician arrived with electric guitar and amp in hand. It wasn’t long before John Brown, a sales events and retail services employee, had his guitar out and was flying up the fingerboard like there was no tomorrow. No wonder – he’s a music teacher at a Long and McQuade music store when not at his day job, he said.
Smiderle arrived next, clad in suit and tie, and promptly strapped his acoustic guitar around his shoulders and strutted over to Brown to discuss the songs they were going to play.
Stefan Pantazi, a health informatics and life sciences professor, followed, and he pulled out his acoustic Dobro guitar. “I haven’t played in many years,” he said, but in a few minutes it was clear he could still carry a tune.
John Fleming, who works at the Welcome Centre in international education, arrived with his electronic drum kit and was soon tap-tapping and making tinkling sounds in time with the others.
As introductions were being made and a screen set up where words and chords to songs were projected, Caldwell arrived with her voice and got things rolling.
They put it all together and filled the room with song by artists such as The Beatles, Bob Marley, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Coldplay for an hour and a half. Smiderle used his baritone voice to accompany Caldwell. There were stops and starts, the switching of some instruments and some discussion sprinkled throughout. They ended with a strong version of Summertime, an old jazz tune.
“Summertime, when the livin’ is easy. Fish are jumpin’, and the cotton is high … ” sang Caldwell.
There were cheers and talk of the next jam.
Pantazi, while putting his guitar away, said, “I was looking forward to playing with someone, and they’re great. It’s just a matter of getting some songs that we all know. It’s something to look forward to.”
The next jam is Thursday, Nov. 5. They run from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in Room 1E04, the Coz-E Corner. Caldwell said students are welcome to drop in and have a listen, and even make some requests.

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