Greg Schochet on the magic of jamming

Greg Schochet will perform at the Limelight Hotel on Thursday, January 6, at 5:30 p.m.

Growing up, Greg Schochet received a music appreciation course in his father’s station wagon, hearing for the first time Bob Dylan, the Band, The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Elton John, James Taylor and Cat Stevens. In high school, hard rock bands like AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd encouraged him to pick up the guitar.

However, it was the Grateful Dead that made him get a mandolin.

Today, that’s Schochet’s primary instrument, one that he applies to his fusion of roots, Americana, bluegrass, country and old time swing. Schochet will perform a free show at the Limelight on Thursday, Jan. 6, at 5:30 p.m.

“It’s a thrill,” Schochet said. “It’s hard. Music is hard. It’s always a shot of adrenaline to get up there and start singing in front of people you don’t know.”

Visiting Sun Valley since the early 80s, he considers it a second home. His current hometown of Boulder, Colorado, though, honed his musical chops.

Schochet discovered that the mandolin occupies a unique space in the musical hierarchy, a cross between a guitar and a violin. Both a great melody and rhythm instrument, he found he could pick it quickly—and quickly penetrate Boulder’s burgeoning progressive bluegrass scene.

“It’s been very fertile for many decades down there,” Schochet said.

Traditional acts like Hot Rize and exciting hybrids like Leftover Salmon coexisted. He floated in and out of jams.

“I got really hooked on the participatory nature of the bluegrass community,” Schochet said.

Aside from a surplus of musicians, there are also large numbers of vivacious fans and great festivals in the area, like RockyGrass and Telluride.

“There’s a lot of people really immersed in music down there,” Schochet said. “There’s a fair amount of work and that really sustained me.”

His first band, Runaway Truck Ramp, toured in an R.V., performing their signature “jamgrass” across the country.

He has been in many bands over the years, performing at such venues as Prairie Home Companion, Red Rocks, Strawberry Music Festival, Sisters Folk Festival and New Orleans Jazz Fest. He has also performed at countless clubs, bars and rodeos.

For about 16 years, he played lead guitar for beloved Colorado western honky-tonk band Halden Wofford & the HiBeams. They toured all over the place.

“That was a good run for the same five guys,” Schochet said. “I’m really proud of that and it was a significant part of my musical career.”

During the pandemic, he was able to slow down and release his first solo album, “Amblin’ Man” in 2021.

“It’s kind of a tour of my musical brain and my past and present,” Schochet said.

He organized a tracklist that represents all the different styles he likes and different ways he enjoys playing.

“I brought in a lot of my real talented friends,” Schochet said. “It was recorded with everyone playing together. It was really kind of a party in the studio.”

Many of his songs tell true stories about people falling on hard times.

“I think the best kinds of country songs speak to something specific that lots of people can relate to,” Schochet said.

Aside from performing, Schochet also teaches guitar and mandolin.

“Most of my teaching practice is centered around getting people to play with other people,” Schochet said.

Along with standard technique, he also teaches “jam etiquette,” how to communicate verbally and musically with other people.

“Music is a great form of personal expression, but also it’s a form of communication between people that’s very unique that provides something that talking can’t and writing can’t,” Schochet said. “It’s all connected.”

Traveling the country, he teaches at music camps. Schochet says folk music was meant for collaboration.

“Playing music is a way to be with somebody that’s really it’s own form,” Schochet said. “I think people who even dip a toe in it, they catch that spark right away, the energy of making sounds with other people and listening while you’re doing it.” 

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