Jameison Sennott was three years old when he first heard Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called To Say I Love You and picked out the melody on keyboard. Soon after, he climbed on to the bench of his aunt’s piano and played a rendition of Chopsticks. In high school, he found out he had perfect pitch.
Mr. Sennott is a man of natural talent—a bass guitarist, guitarist, mandolin player and songwriter, he hears music and replicates it easily. So it was only natural that last Saturday Mr. Sennott would join fellow community musicians at the Daybreak Musicale to showcase that talent on stage.
The Daybreak Musicale concert, now in its second year, drew both a crowd and a variety of performers to Grace Church in Vineyard Haven this weekend. Jonathan Halperin, a young maestro with a specialty in the classics, sat at the piano and unleashed Three Preludes by Gershwin and the Prelude and Fugue in C Minor from the Well-Tempered Clavier by Johann Sebastian Bach.
Alexandra Wojnowski, graduate of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and Wellesley College, turned words into spoken music as she recited her poem Musical Minds.
Renowned Island musician Michael Haydn’s accomplished hands flew over the piano keys to render the bossa nova Desafinado by Antonio Carlos Jobim. He followed it up with his own jazz-infused composition Shaker, Jive.
Mr. Sennott sat himself in front of a digital eight-track recorder. He picked up his electric bass guitar and sang Where Were You?, an original composition with lyrics by Cammy Rogers. His expert picking of the lower-registered guitar contrasted wonderfully with his high, Neil Young-inflected vocal tones.
Nearly all of the performers at the concert were members of the Daybreak Clubhouse, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services’ therapeutic center for people with mental illnesses. Mr. Sennott, now 31, has been a member for several years.
The Daybreak program was founded in 1978, and over time has greatly expanded its mission and presence on the Island. In 2005, Community Services saw that a proper clubhouse was necessary and opened the Daybreak Community Services building at Woodland Plaza in Vineyard Haven. That building now houses wellness, healthy living, education and job placement programs, as well as group therapy and ... a jam band.
“We run a work-ordered day,” director Carolyn Eddy, MS., MDiv. said in a recent phone interview. “The focus is on developing strengths in our members. They all have jobs or, if they don’t have them, we find them jobs. They also have assigned chores here, in the kitchen, maintenance of the building and cultivating produce in the greenhouse.”
But all work and no play is no fun at all—and besides, there’s too much talent in the Daybreak headquarters to let go untapped. So staff generalist Janis Syslo, a pianist and passionate lover of pop and folk music, saw to it that Daybreak’s many gifted musicians could play to their hearts’ content. She organized a biweekly jamming session on Tuesdays and Fridays. Ms. Syslo and the so-called Daybreak Jammers were soon ready to take their act on the road—or, in any event, down local roads and onto the stage.
At Sunday’s performance, Ms. Syslo prerecorded a piano background on Mr. Sennott’s eight-track and focused on singing instead. Together with Mr. Sennott on bass and guest performer Merrily Fenner on acoustic guitar, they performed Eric Clapton’s Lay Down Sally and Jimmy Buffett’s Knees of My Heart.
Dave Grey, a percussionist since the age of 8, joined the band for a rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama.
By that point in the evening, the room was, frankly, rocking. Mr. Grey followed the ripsnorting tune with a recitation of the poem Vineyard Breeze.
All singers and musicians took part in a rousing finale, a performance of Bill Withers’ Lean on Me.
At the cocktail party that followed, the common topic of conversation was how much the Daybreak band was ready for prime time.
“We’ve changed the name from the Daybreak Jammers to the Breakers,” said Ms. Eddy. “Jamming implies fooling around. These musicians have a full repertoire of songs now.”
“We’re getting more and more into community functions,” Ms. Syslo added. “It’s just so satisfying for all of us and our audiences, as well!”
Mr. Sennott said a Christmas booking is in the works for one of the Island libraries.
More information on the Daybreak Clubhouse and band is available by calling the Daybreak Clubhouse at 508-696-7563 or visiting the Web site mvcommunityservices.com.