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A musical mission


Former Seneca High School graduate and current musician Sara James is determined to give kids the opportunity to showcase and build upon their musical talents regardless of their financial situation.

“Just because you don’t have money does not mean that you aren’t talented and don’t deserve a chance to do what I do,” James said.

After taking part in a School of Rock program at a younger age, James had a friend who also wanted to join the program but simply could not afford it. She wanted to send her friend to the school instead of receiving Christmas presents that year, and that’s what got the wheels rolling on the Sara James Foundation.

“We all decided there had to be a better way,” Executive Director of the Foundation Larry Jameson said.

James made the decision to put this foundation together but didn’t want her name on it because she tries to keep her school life separated from her music world.

“When we witnessed how important something like this was to Sara, as she wanted others to have the same opportunities that she was afforded, we looked into starting the foundation,” Jameson said. “The opportunities are just not there anymore with the cutting of funding for regular school music programs.”

The sole objective of the foundation is to make music lessons accessible to low-income children who are also inspired by music and share James’ desire and passion to play.

Private donations, grants, sponsorships, performances and community events fund the charity and allow it to provide free professional lessons that will give more children the opportunity to make music.

James’ music career got off to a slow start when she received a guitar at the age of 9 and it sat and collected dust for a year. When she finally decided to start taking lessons, it was clear she had an undiscovered gift.

She progressed so rapidly that after an evaluation at the School of Rock Camp, they determined she was a little too advanced for the camps and suggested their “performance program.”

“She’s a bit shy, so we forced her to try it for one season,” Jameson said. James chose the Pink Floyd show, was placed in quite a few songs and was cast to sing one song even though she was there for guitar. That was the deciding factor that she wanted to continue with singing as well as guitar.

She is now in two bands as well as continuing with the performance program.

Ancora is one of the house bands. It is a part of the school and play a variety of alternative and classic rock. It has played at venues as big as the Hard Rock in Philadelphia, The Trocadero Theatre and The Legendary Dobbs.

She also helped form her other band, Sara James and the Hess Brothers, outside of the school to promote the Sara James Music Foundation. The group consists of James, Jon Hess, Joey Hess, Ricky Hess, Jake Fritz, Jack Reres and Pat McHugh.

They played more than 35 gigs in 2014, ending with a performance at the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in Cleveland. They raised more than $7,000 in 2014 for scholarships.

The scholarships are awarded to talented students who come from low-income families and wish to pursue individual and group music lessons. They can include vocalists, guitarists, bassists, drummers and keyboardists. The award is good for one year of free weekly lessons, which will culminate in live group performances.

The foundation sees music as a necessity and not a luxury.

“Music helps with other skills needed for overall success in school,” Jameson said.

The organization hosts two annual regional talent shows to help fund the scholarship program.

“The talent shows were a great success this year. Artists from Philadelphia, Camden and the surrounding area signed up, so we had a tremendous variety of music from acoustic, to rap, to rock and roll,” Jameson said. “We raised enough money in two evenings for another scholarship, which was our goal.”

The scholarship application link is available for print on the Sara James Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SaraJamesMusicFoundation. If you or someone you know would like to apply, print the application, complete all sections and mail it to 3 Independence Way, Southampton, NJ 08088.

“The application process is quite easy and user friendly,” Jameson said. “There is basic information as well as some financial information needed. There is also a short essay question that the applicants need to answer.”

The applications are then verified by the foundation’s board members, and the steering committee will review the applicants and the essays and choose the recipient.

The foundation is also looking for anyone interested in serving on the board of directors.

“The best aspect of being a part of this organization is seeing the success and joy of the children going through the program. Money is no longer a barrier or a factor that separates these children from the others. Talent and joy are the only things that matter now,” Jameson said.

Contact sjmfes@comcast.net for more information, or visit www.sarajamesmusicfoundation.org.

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