Freeway Music — Columbia, SC’s Premier Music School

It was six years ago today when I started At the time I was completely disconnected from any music scene there might have been other than being a fan of some of our local artists. I knew I wanted to be more involved, and support these artists, but I wasn’t sure how, so I started a website, started going to shows and began shooting videos and snapping pictures. At the time I realized there were no other outlets online to read about South Carolina music, and no magazines dedicated to covering the music scene here other than the alt-weeklies like Free Times and Charleston City Paper. So I thought, why not start an online outlet to write about some of the great bands from South Carolina?

In the six years since we’ve started SceneSC many other outlets have popped up, and those are ones I’d like to bring light to today. So much has changed and it’s been incredible to watch new relationships form and new talented musicians grow and for some go on to fame. The key to any music scene is embracing these relationships and to be involved as much as you can. For so many years it was hard to find ways to get involved, but now other bands and all of these media outlets are just an email away. And always remember, media outlets are out there looking for new artists and bands are all looking to connect with one another.

Knowledge is power, so here are some local media outlets to become familiar with and check out to see what’s going on in the South Carolina music scene:
SceneSC Hey! That’s us. We cover music and happenings all over the state, and we love to cover great bands coming through.

SC Music Guide Another great website covering SC music. They focus on showcasing the talent within our state and a great job of it.

Metronome Charleston If you’re looking for the next big band from Charleston, SC, Metronome is the place to read about them first. They’ve got their finger on the pulse of the Holy City’s music scene.

Stereofly A wonderful monthly zine covering music from the Southeast. They also host lots of shows in Columbia.
Charleston City Paper and Free Times Both of these outlets work hard to stay on top of what’s happening in our music scene, and are must reads if you want to stay connected.

I was in the Vista to grab a bite to eat at Liberty just before heading over to see Bruno Mars play at the Colonial Center, when out of the corner of my eye I caught a piano on the sidewalk! I was kind of taken back. It was just on the corner of Gervais across from The Blue Marlin. There was a young man playing piano, and another guy playing guitar. They were just singing and playing. I thought myself, “buskers…cool. I’m so impressed they actually brought an upright piano out here”. Then, I carried on with my evening.

Just before going home later that night, I swung by the satisfy my late night craving of Pita Pit, and there it was again. I saw another upright piano positioned right next to Starbucks in Five Points. I thought to myself, “Surely this isn’t the same people. I mean why would they lug a piano from The Visa to Five Points”. There was yet another small pocket of musicians huddled around the piano jamming. I continued to my grilled chicken pita feeling somewhat befuddled, yet digging the vibe that it brought to my city.

Yesterday I stumbled on this:
Five Things You Need to Know in the South Right Now

Then, it all made sense! There apparently will be 10 pianos scattered throughout the city for the month of June. The organization putting this on is One Columbia. They also plan to have a piano concert. Check out their website, and what they are all about! Bravo to One Columbia, and to Columbia as a whole. I love seeing culture sparked in my home town. Everyone keep up the good work!

As a person who is passionate about my local community, music scene, and culture, I take notice when others are taking action. Today I am applauding the efforts of three organizations.

The Township Auditorium

The Township is one of Columbia’s oldest and most storied venues. The likes of Elvis and Prince have graced its stage. In recent history, they have had an issue of not bringing in relevant and exciting acts; however, they are currently bringing in great act after great act. The most recent acts include: Grace Potter, Amos Lee, Band of Horses, John Legend, and more. Often, I would have to travel to Charlotte or Charleston to catch one of these shows. The guys at Township now are doing a great job! Keep it up guys!

The Drum Mafia

Brian Geiger has done an awesome job organizing his drum mafia in Columbia! Drummers, both semi-pro and enthusiasts, meet once a month with a guest artist to increase their knowledge. The clinic is followed by an open jam session. This gathering is furthering the education of drummers in our scene and knitting our local musicians together more tightly. More importantly, great music scenes must have a foundation of musicians that are working for a common goal to change the culture. Way to go, Brian! Keep it up!

Sims Music

Sims Music has been churning out great music clinics lately, from owner Jerry Sims on chord melody, all the way to the likes of powerhouse drummer Aaron Spears, who will be appearing at Sims later this month. Justin Sims has done an awesome job reaching out to Freeway Music and other local organizations, as well. These are the kinds of things that will help propel us to the next level. Great job to the Sims guys! Make sure you catch one of their clinics, and while you are there, buy something from this locally owned music store.

Freeway Music has a vision of our town’s becoming a thriving hub for music, causing musicians to move or stay here, cultivating their music careers. Our combined efforts will certainly make this vision a reality. The future of our music scene is bright!

If you have been in the music scene in Columbia for a while, you’ve seen many venues come and go: Rockafellas, The Elbow Room, Senate Park, The White Mule, The House/Five Points Pub, and many more. One thing that Columbia has seriously lacked in the past was a midsized club that could host up-and-coming national and regional acts. Thankfully, The Music Farm and Tin Roof have come together to forge a new venue next door to the existing Tin Roof. It will hold a capacity of 1200+. Here are the reasons I believe this time it will actually succeed in Columbia:

Tin Roof and Music Farm both have a lot of combined experience in running music venues and booking music venues. They both have an extremely good track record of bringing in popular and relevant talent. Their years of experience will bring the connections that are very hard to otherwise establish. I have no doubt that they will run the business side of things very well, too.

Local Outreach
Both venues forging this effort are also excellent at plugging into their local music scenes. Not only will you see national and regional acts there, but also you will see up-and-coming local talent represented as well. The Tin Roof is excellent at partnering with local businesses, charities, and organizations for events. They have been a great partner to Freeway Music! They have hosted our showcases, clinics, the Freeway Music Festival, and even hosted a fundraiser for us to raise money for under-served children to learn music. This local involvement will be a key component into their success.

When it comes to venues, size definitely matters. They went big, but not too big. There has never been a really good midsize venue in town. The Township and The Colonial Center seat 18,000 and 3,000+ people. The Koger Center holds approximately 2,200 people, but is mostly for “sit down” concerts. The new venue in Columbia will hold 1,200 people, which is certainly bigger than the likes of New Brookland Tavern, but no where near the bigger venues in town. Many of the concerts I’ve seen at Township are half full, which would be perfect for the new Music Farm venue. I think that emerging talent, big regional acts, smaller national acts, and big local shows will fit perfectly in this venue. A large amount of bands fit into this category and frankly, Columbia has missed out on some of these bands because of the lack of such a venue. I am certain there would be many sellouts in the new venue.

Thank goodness there is finally a midsize venue in Columbia! The experience, connections, and local mindset that Music Farm and Tin Roof will bring will make this venue a success. Look for this venue to stick around and avoid the graveyard of unsuccessful smaller venues that have proceeded it. This is an exciting time to be in the Columbia music scene!

From songwriter, to jazz musician, to bluegrass musician, there are a lot of great jams to check out in Columbia!


Event: Open Mic Night w/ Charles Riley and Dave Love
Place: Kelly’s
Time: 10-Until
Description: This is an open mic for small acts, acoustic players, etc. If you are trying to get used to playing in front of a crowd, or trying a new song out on someone, this is a great jam for you. It’s very laid back and fun. A lot of local musicians frequent this jam, making it a great place to network. You never know who may drop by on any given Monday.

Tuesday (every other)

Event: Singer Songwriter Night
Place: Delaney’s Music Pub
Time: 9-Until
Description: David Adedokun assembles some of Columbia’s best songwriters to try out new material for listeners. Usually 3-4 songwriters play in rounds. Often, other songwriters show up and sit in. It’s a good place to go make connections with other songwriters. David is great about allowing other songwriters to sneak in and giving songwriters a chance to play in future songwriter nights.

Tuesday (every other)

Event: Songwriter Night
Place: Bill’s Music Shop
Time: 7PM-Until
Description: If you are trying to get out and try some new material, this is a great open mic! It’s simply a songwriter open mic.


Event: Jazz Workshop w/ Skipp Pearson
Place: Hunter Gatherer
Time: 9-12
Description: This is the longest standing Jazz jam in Columbia, led by local jazz icon Skipp Pearson or trumpet player Mark Rouse. This is a jam session for more traditional, straight ahead jazz. You’ll find some of the best musicians around holding down the house band and amazing musicians from all over will drop by and “sit in.”


Event: Jazz Jam w/ The Tony Lee Group
Place: Speak Easy
Time: 10-1
Description: This regular gig has been standing for nearly 10 years. Typically, this jam includes a vocalist, and is a bit more versatile. You could hear straight ahead Jazz, R&B, Fusion, and even current Pop tunes. “Sitting in” is usually an option from the second set on. If you are a vocalist or an instrumentalist, this is a great place to sit in and work on your chops. Some of the best musicians on the scene will always be found here.


Event: Open Bluegrass Jam
Place: Bill’s Music Shop
Time: 6-Midnight
Description: The culture of bluegrass is perfectly demonstrated on Friday’s at Bill’s Picking Parlor. The doors open, and bluegrass players of all instruments and skill level come out to jam. You can sit outside the circle and try to figure out the chords, or you can pick with some of the best pickers in the country.

Friday & Saturday

Event: Jazz Jam with Robert Gardiner
Place: Pearlz Upstairs (Friday) Speak Easy (Saturday)
Time: 10-1
Description: Robert Gardiner has held down his jazz jam for many years now and has become one of the most well-known jazz players in the area. His bands have changed throughout the years with some of the best musicians around. This jam is very similar to that at Hunter Gatherer on Thursdays. It’s a great place to sit in and meet local musicians.

It is increasingly popular to purchase things online. In the era of e-commerce, one can easily jump online and buy music books, strings, guitars, and even cars! This is very convenient, and sensible…in some cases. Some purchases, however, should still be reserved for buying locally. Here are a few reasons to shop local when searching for a musical instrument:

Try it Out
Buying a new instrument is a huge decision, and one of the biggest factors is how it plays. You need to be able to hold a musical instrument to see if it feels comfortable, and you like the way it feels. You also need to hear the tone, to make sure you like the way it sounds. It’s very risky buying an instrument online. It’s like rolling dice; you’ll never know what you might get. It could be very hard to play, the sound could be awful, or it could be damaged A lot of times the money you “save” from ordering online is spent trying to get the instrument right.

With any musical instrument, you have to repair and maintain it from time to time. Purchasing local makes this so convenient. If you have an issue, simply take it to your local music store from where you purchased it, and they will take care of it for you. Most music stores have an in-store warranty, and really want to maintain your business. Having a good relationship with a local music store has other perks too; you get connected with local musicians, and they sometimes even give you a discount when you are a regular customer.

Local Economy
If you are a musician, chances are you are already passionate about your local music scene and community. There’s no better way to support your local music scene or community than supporting your local economy. One of the great perks of shopping local is that the money goes right back into your local economy. Going to shows at local venues, buying musical instruments at local stores, and recording at local studios are great ways to bolster the economy and support your music scene. Why would you support a place that you aren’t even invested in?

Next time you go make a purchase, keep these points in mind. It’s always better to try it out in person; you can’t beat the convenience of a local store; and at the end of the day, where do you want your money to go? Don’t take the risk of purchasing a musical instrument online; shop local. Happy Shopping!

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