In this Creator Conversation, I speak with Juan Reinoso of the Tulsa Little Jam. The nonprofit music and talk show was designed to showcase emerging Tulsa music while also giving back to arts education through school music programs.
Tell me a bit about yourself and your role with Tulsa Little Jam.
Originally from Tulsa I moved to NYC for over two decades and established a career as writer/producer/director in film/theatre/commercials, etc… After losing my life partner Brittany and my father-in-law, my life was a bit in flux. So when my father started to fall a lot with age, I decided to semi-relocate back to Tulsa to help my mom out with my dad. That was when I was asked if I could help put the concept of Tulsa Little Jam on its feet and I wound up becoming the Host/Director/Producer of the show.
What is the Tulsa Little Jam and how did it get started?
Mary Janette Hammack, originally from Tulsa and now living in KC, came up with the idea about a decade before I started coming back. She had partnered with Carlos Moreno and they had come close a couple of times to making it happen, but one thing led to another and circumstances kept it from happening. Carlos and I were introduced through a mutual friend and when learned about my work he asked if I would have a go at the show. Less than 6 weeks later we were taping. While I had worked on slightly similar formats over the years, I hadn’t done this type of show specifically. And with my original background in acting, I also enjoyed the idea of Hosting it, so I threw myself into it. But what I loved most about it was the fact they wanted to give some of the proceeds from the tapings to school music programs in the Tulsa area.
I wasn’t very familiar with the music scene in Tulsa at all, but I wound up falling in love with the immense level of talent there is here. It’s insanely good. So being able to bring more awareness to the talent that exists here while also giving back to the next generation in any small or big way possible was just awesome.
Why do you think people should watch Tulsa Little Jam?
The music scene here is super supportive of each other here. But what’s cool is being able to hear from fans who aren’t in the scene say how they never would have heard of a band if it weren’t for the show. Several bands have picked up lots of new fans because of the show. So it’s a great way to discover new bands and to fall in love more with some of the more established ones. It’s also a talk show. Between every song we sit down for interviews with the musicians and delve into what makes them tick. So viewers get some good looks into how the process works for each band. Sometimes it can be silly and fun, but a lot of times we can also get very introspective on an emotional level. It’s just a nice wide range and it’s a show Tulsa didn’t have before.
Tell us about your non-profit component and why it’s important.
I mean, I think that part speaks for itself. To be able to give back to kids who have their own musical dreams is fantastic. A lot of the programs are lacking in funding. Some of them don’t have enough instruments or the instruments they do have are old and falling apart. Makes it hard for kids to be able to effectively learn that way, even if their teachers are astounding. So to be able to help in any way possible on our end is awesome.
What have been some of the greatest challenges you overcame for this series?
Ha! We STILL have challenges every time we tape. We’ve still never raised the full production costs for a Season of the show yet. This is a real production in the sense that we have multiple cameras and a decent sized crew. We pay our crew the bands that appear. And a production like this is not inexpensive, so we rely on sponsorship. But we have yet to be able to raise the full production costs for an entire season, and so we aren’t able to give as much to programs as we’d like. However, as we continue to grow in viewership I am confident we will get there and we will be able to give more and more back.
How has the show evolved and changed over the seasons?
As with any show, we grew into ourselves. We started with zero set dressing and are now starting to add some production design elements to make it stand out more. I also think I was a little clunky at first as a Host, but hopefully, I’ve gotten better. lol. But the one constant has been the musical talent. Man, what TALENT!!
Any behind-the-scenes stories you wish to share or things you learned from making this show?
I like to keep the interview process very organic, natural. And I have no problem making mistakes and then actually keeping them in the show. One instance would be when I interviewed Casii Stephan. For some reason I am goofing up on her name and pronouncing it ‘Cassie’ instead of ‘Casey’, and that’s sad because I knew her for a couple of months before she even came on the show. So when I mispronounced her name on the show and she corrected me, I sheepishly left the stage and sat in the audience. It’s funnier when you see it in the show itself, which is a moment I kept in because it’s fun. But there are a LOT of tech goofs and other instances I will eventually make a fun little blooper reel of at some point.
What is your favorite jam to eat?
Strawberry Preserves. I don’t do traditional Jam. Except for the show.
What places in Tulsa do you recommend for enjoying live music?
Well, that’s a tricky one. When I listen to live music in NY I tend to go to small dive-bar type venues. I’m a fan of more intimate settings. However, I’m also about to turn 45 and getting me out past 10p on any night is like pulling teeth. But, in general, I’m always up for adventure and that tends to be found in the places you don’t know. So if I were to venture out I would probably go to smaller venues I’d not been too before. But that’s the beauty of live music in Tulsa. No matter where you go you’re likely to find something exciting and new. (This is my worst answer ever. lol)
Anything else you want to say or let people know?
This is an incredibly difficult time for SO many of us, right now, both emotionally and economically. From an economic standpoint, musicians are having a hard time, having had gigs canceled for months in advance as a result of the crisis. I hope your readers will consider exploring the various bands that are out there and supporting them, whether financially through donations or by just sharing their music with others. If you like someone, support them. We need arts now more than ever.
Learn more and watch the Tulsa Little Jam at https://www.tulsalittlejam.com