By Jim Speirs, Executive Director, Arts South Dakota

Recently I had the opportunity to help out during a jam session at a local restaurant that promotes live music weekly and a special open stage jam session monthly. Over 30 musicians of all ages, skill levels and performance experience participated, and the level of enthusiasm and mentorship was encouraging in every way.

Certain skills can only be learned on stage, in the moment of performance. We often marvel at the way great performers have a “chemistry,” or artistry to play as if they were one musician. That ability or skill comes from time on stage, learning from experienced peers.

We need to provide as many chances as we can for emerging artists to learn by doing, working alongside experienced musicians, actors, painters and film artists. Some of those emerging artists are students—and some are people who are just finding out how important making music, sharing their vision and creating is to each of us. 

The monthly jam sessions introduce players to being in the spotlight, sharing the unique language of playing jazz and seeing how an experienced performer pulls off those improvisational flourishes that breathe life into the music. By making room on the stage for new musicians, we can expand the art form and keep it fresh. 

There are many ways that artists in every discipline can share their knowledge with students outside the classroom setting. Mentoring doesn’t have to mean weekly meetings and structured activities. It can be as simple as an open studio experience once a month, bringing in emerging artists to see the physical reality of a working visual artist. Dance studio tours, community theater workshops in acting, lighting and stagecraft—all these things can energize emerging artists while introducing them into the world of creative professionals. 

During this season of sharing, please consider ways you can share your talent and your creative spirit with others. You may be passing the torch at just the right time and growing—here at home—the next generation that builds our state’s creative future.

To learn more about various arts opportunities in our state, visit us at the Arts South Dakota website,