Rekindling Your Childlikeness: The Elephant Sessions

Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Robbie Schaefer and I were in sync Monday night. He had no idea what he was going to do and I had no idea what to expect.

I have been a Schaefer fan since the first time I heard Eddie From Ohio, an alternative/folk/rock/please-don’t-pigeonhole-me band composed of Virginian natives. With its four-part harmonic and hard-driving songs like “Eddie’s Concubine,” “Tommy the Canexican,” and “Let’s Get Mesolithic,” what’s not to like?

Robbie Schaefer performing on stage at Jammin Java, Jan. 5, 2015.

Robbie Schaefer at Jammin Java, Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. Shut Up and Be Grateful.

But what Schaefer promised at Jammin Java in Vienna, Virginia, on Monday—and for the next three Mondays—is a different experience than an Eddie from Ohio show. Dubbed “The Elephant Sessions,” Schaefer promised “informal and intimate evenings focused on music and exploring the creative process. We hope to present an occasional special guest, spark conversation, and enjoy music and one another. It’s kind of like a musical town hall. With snacks. And beer.”

Wow. And beer! Bonus: Tickets are only 10 bucks a show, or 30 for all four. Being the big spender I am, I quickly splurged for a month of Mondays for the wife and me. (The wife was sick for the first show, so daughter Clare accompanied yours truly.)

Although each Monday night show (the schooliest of school nights, as Schaefer noted) has a theme, Schaefer admitted to not having planned out the evening. The theme for the first show was “Shut Up and Be Grateful.” The “Be Grateful” theme worked well. The “Shut Up” theme integrated well with signs plastered at eye level every two feet throughout Jammin Java reminding patrons not to talk during performances. But that’s not what Schaefer had in mind as he tried to entice the audience to actively participate in his presentation.

No, Schaefer’s “Shut Up” referred to mediation, the silence that allows each of us to listen to our soul. He actually led the audience through a meditative exercise during the program, after which he intoned: “Silence seems to be the birthplace of gratitude.”

Schaefer’s stories were as entertaining as his music—even more so because he quit stories part way through to play a song, only to have an audience member ask him to finish it later on. A disjointed trip to Uganda—which also wasn’t planned beyond having an airline ticket, a guitar, and a destination (sensing another theme here?)—led to the founding of the philanthropic organization One Voice. One Voice’s mission is: “Uniting children worldwide through music and creative expression. Empowering children to build a just, peaceful, and wonder-filled world.”

One Voice had me at the slogan “Power to the [Little] People” because I is a little people.

At the end, Schaefer’s theme didn’t work for me. The theme I left with was “Be a Child and Raise Up Our Children.” Never lose the wonder. Never lose the capacity to laugh uncontrollably. Never stifle your song.

And he sang:

There was a time
When you were young
Every moment
Upon your tongue
And it tasted wild
And it tasted sweet
Now do you
Remember me?

And he sang:

And I prayed for a miracle, I prayed for a sign
Like a dream in the desert or a voice in the night …
But it’s only a miracle if you show up to receive it.

I wouldn’t go as far as to promise a miracle at Schaefer’s Elephant Sessions, but it’s a friendly and gentle unscripted get-together of music- and people-lovers. Having Schaefer on the stage and the audience sitting at long tables perpendicular to the stage didn’t drive the intimacy I think Schaefer seeks. Perhaps in future manifestations he may find a way to come down to the audience’s level while still commanding the stage, arranging for a more circular and less perpendicular setting.

But for now, I look forward to the next three Monday nights to see where Schaefer’s theme drives us and what theme I take away. Maybe I’ll see you there. With beer.

If you go:

Jammin Java, 227 Maple Ave E., Vienna, VA, 22180, 703.255.1566

Week 2: Monday, January 12
Theme: “Abundance. Lots and Lots of Abundance

Week 3: Monday, January 19
Theme: “The Work of Art

Week 4: Monday, January 26
Theme: “Compassionate Activism”

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at


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