Twice a year, the backyard of Jeanne and Kurt Weakland is transformed into an outdoor auditorium for their Backyard Jam.
Until then, the five or six extension cords needed to power the Jam hang patiently on the wall in their garage, awaiting the evening when the dozen or so kids from school and the neighborhood arrive with their keyboards, guitars, amplifiers and young voices.
“Backyard Jam started as an end-of-the-year outdoor recital for our kids and some of their friends from school,” says Jeanne Weakland. “Since then, it’s grown to include the kids of some of our other friends and lots more school friends. James Biehn and Rich Webster bring their kids and help orchestrate the evening.”
Both Biehn and Webster are known throughout Des Moines as talented musicians, and Biehn is the director of the Central Iowa Music Lab.
“It’s turned into a pretty big deal,” says Weakland. “Our kids practice all year, forming bands and learning new songs, just to play in the Jam. The parents all come to enjoy the music from the kids, but it’s also grown into a pretty big potluck.”
Weaklands own kids — Alex, 14; Ben, 11; Ella, 8 and Maya, 6 — have begun to show some real musical talent on the guitar, keyboards and singing.
“James (Biehn) heard Ben sing last summer, and said ‘That kid’s got a real voice.’ I take that as a real compliment coming from him,” says Weakland.
The Weakland kids have, or rather, are developing into their own specialty. Alex has taken a liking to the keyboard, Ben the guitar — both acoustic and electric — while the girls enjoy singing and some free-style dancing.
“We look forward to each Backyard Jam,” says Weakland. “When it’s over and we’ve got everything put away, the kids are already discussing what they are going to play at the next one.”
When the extension cords are not being used for the Backyard Jam, Weaklands pull them out for the holidays, adding color and light to their Beaverdale front yard.
“I have about 20 light balls that I hang in my magnolia tree,” says Weakland. “I just love them. They’re expensive, and sometimes they burn out, but I hunt pretty hard for them, whether picking them up in after-holiday sales or on eBay. They’re one thing that I treat myself to. I just love how they look.”Contact Darren at 953-4822 ext. 304 or firstname.lastname@example.org to recommend someone for an upcoming issue of “What’s In Your Garage?”