MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- On what seemed like a regular Sunday afternoon in late 2009, Denny Randell, GI Jams co-founder and co-director, answered his phone to an unfamiliar voice.
“Hello sir, this is Jeremiah Eaton. I’m in the Army National Guard calling from the desert of Iraq,” Randell recalled. “What he said brought tears to my eyes. He found out about GI Jams through a military newspaper article and said to me, ‘We just got back from a mission and my gunner told me about GI Jams. We have our guitars with us and we were so excited to hear we can post our songs for everyone to hear. Mr. Randell, not only have you brightened our day, but you have brightened the day of two battalions that here with us.’”
Backed by major record companies, GI Jams is a multi-media website created as a platform for military musicians to post and sell original songs as well as upload videos and photos.
Randell added the service members he talked to posted a song during Christmas break they wrote in country for their friends and family to listen on the website.
“(My wife, Biddy Schippers, and I) always wanted to do something for our military,” Randell said. “We’ve been successful in the music industry and that’s what we know, so we said ‘Why not help through music.’”
Randell has sold over 200 million records and wrote several hit songs for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons — the hit Broadway Musical “Jersey Boys” features three of his songs. Randell now spends part of his time promoting the work of other artists.
Randell and Schippers co-founded GI Jams in 2009 and became not only husband and wife but business partners as well.
“It took us more than a year to make sure the site was built specifically for the service members, was easy to use and could handle the large files required to upload music and videos from around the world,” Randell said.
Civilians can listen to the music by visiting the website and create their own fan pages.
“I joined GI Jams a few months after it launched in 2009,” said Lt. Col. Jerard A. Brewer, Marine Corps Installations-East Marine For Life officer in charge. “It’s a great way for Marines and other service members to get their music out to the public. I’ve always been able to write music and lyrics, but after I made a song and recorded it, I didn’t know what to do with it. I feel great knowing people are hearing my music.”
More than 1,000 military musicians posted their music to the website since its inception in 2009.
Service members and veterans can join the website from any base in the U.S. and while deployed.
Brewer, a songwriter, has four albums worth of songs on the website alone that are performed by various vocalists and musicians. He also shared the stage with fellow artists during a GI Jams Veterans Day concert in Las Vegas, Nov. 12, 2010.
Brewer said GI Jams is a network resource to support service members who are musically talented but do not have any contacts in the music industry.
“There is a lot of hidden talent within our ranks, and I believe in the healing power of music,” said Brewer. “Music is a therapeutic art and can help with anxiety, separation, post traumatic stress disorder and other military related stressors. GI Jams helps with getting that music out to the world.”
GI Jams released its first album ‘GI Jams Vol: 1,’ April 5, 2011. The first volume featured eight artists from the Marine Corps, Army, Air Force and Navy along with two battlefield music videos.
Randell and Schippers have been invited to many military installations since GI Jams started and were thanked by base commanders and other service members for their help in boosting troop morale across the military.
Recently, they were invited to the Pentagon and honored for their support of the military. They also toured Marine Corps Base Quantico, Officer Candidate School, Marine For Life headquarters and the Marine Corps Museum.
On the main page of the website it is posted, “To our military artists – Don’t worry about sending us a professional production. Depending on your situation, just send your voice, songs, music and pictures by cell phone, personal cam, cassette or whatever’s available. If you have more that’s great, but as long as we can see and hear you, the folks who come to GI Jams will support you.”
For more information, visit www.gijams.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.