Meet Sajo Jefferson, a first-year at Pomona who recently led a mini-workshop on the loop pedal. Her hour-long session was one of the highlights of our Tuesday Night @ the Hive series; almost every person there came in saying they had little to no musical experience, and all of us left amazed at the musical magic we accomplished together. We knew Sajo had lots of insightful things to say about collaboration, creativity, and how you best not come for her when she’s wrapping cables, so we jumped on the chance to chat with her some more.
What did you teach at The Hive and why did you decide to to teach it?
I taught how to use a loop pedal, which is this technological box that you plug into musical instruments to make loops [a repeated section of sound]. The whole focus of the workshop was about how collaboration is everything in music. I talked about how parts of a song collaborate with each other. It’s all about creating space and making sure that the guitar, bass, and piano are building something and working together. I also talked about how musicians collaborate when they perform together. In every aspect of musical life you are working collaboratively even if you don’t recognize it. I decided to teach loop pedaling to help people recognize when they are collaborating and when it’s important to intentionally collaborate. I’ve played with a lot of musicians who don’t think about their part as a piece of the whole. And so I was like, how do we build those skills? Because it’s definitely a skill that you have to practice and the loop pedal is one of the ways I’ve been able to practice that skill. It really allows me to practice listening carefully, while keeping in mind that my contribution is only a piece of the song, and it’s the whole thing we are making that’s the most important product.
What else did you cover in the workshop?
We briefly talked about the technical skill of loop pedaling, although I’m not super well versed in the tech side of it. It’s a cool gadget that musicians are using more often in performance and recording. I showed people the basics. We just sort of stomped on it and used a microphone, passing it around in a circle and adding our little pieces to make music.
We made several tracks. There’s a lot of tracks that you can record on the pedal. We made four loops altogether; I deleted one by accident, but it happens. They all were interesting and came out very different. The first one started with Tom saying “my name is Tom” in rhythm and we were like, “that’s funny.” People just kept going, and it ended up being really cool. You never know what’s going to happen!
Here’s an example of another one of the loops.
What kinds of things did you learn, or what experience did you gain, from teaching a workshop?
So many things! I connected with people who are also interested in making this kind of music, which was really cool. It was awesome to see people experiencing the loop pedal, and using it as a tool to not just make music but encourage collaboration in general. People said that one of their favorite things was how it encouraged them to actively listen. Also, when people asked me questions I didn’t know the answers to, it made me really want to do research to figure it out. I was like, “hmm I should really do some research.” I’ve been carrying around the manual to my loop pedal all day, reading it and discovering really cool things. So that’s always good.
What do you enjoy about the Hive?
Oh, so much! One of the things I love about the space is how it really centers people who have marginalized identities. This is a really cool space to connect people who generally don’t have access to certain [resources and skill sets]; they can find that here.
What else would you want to teach or learn at the Hive?
Actually, that was sort of another piece of the workshop last night: it was about in my experience as a woman musician and experiencing the most trouble with collaboration when I’m playing with mostly men. And our group was mostly women and there were two guys. And it was really cool to see how that happened sort of incidentally — but maybe not so incidentally — and I got to thinking about wrapping cables. Because a lot of guys don’t do it right, but usually women aren’t taken seriously when they do it even if they know how to do it. Every time I go to a gig and we’re doing sound, the guys always think I have no idea, that I’ve never wrapped cables before in my life. So I was thinking we could have a cable wrapping workshop, but it’s really for women musicians to talk about our experiences.
I was also thinking about doing another loop pedal workshop for people who couldn’t come, since there was a lot of interest. And maybe one involving instruments, because you can plug instruments into loop pedals too. At the very end of the workshop I showed the group how a lot of what I do is with the guitar and the loop pedal. I’d love to have people bring in random instruments to play together, or not even an instrument but just something that makes a cool noise.
What do you see as the role of the Hive for Pomona and the rest of the 5Cs?
I see the Hive as a place that feels really free from a lot of the constraints that normal college life inherently has because it’s so new and it’s been established so well by such wonderful people. I find it really exciting and wonderful that we can come here to practice or learn new things and we don’t have to be experts. One of the things I’ve noticed as a first year at Pomona is that people are always telling you, “it’s liberal arts, branch out” — but it’s still really hard to do that. How do I actually go about majoring in something but still have the opportunity to explore and learn new things outside of that? I think that the Hive has so much potential because it has no requirements or limitations, none of that. The Hive is just about letting people learn together and be intentionally collaborative, and that’s so exciting and so undervalued. It’s amazing to have a place that’s like that in college.
Thanks to Nicki Maslan (CMC ’16), Gail Gallaher (PO ’17), and Estela Sanchez (PO ’17) for transcription and editing!