For close to 60 years, Passim has been a haven for both nationally-known and promising artists from all over. Located in the heart of Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts and easily accessible by T, Passim offers rousing concerts as well as unconventional, interactive special events all year long. Last September, founding member of the band, “Courage Brothers,” businessman, and Executive Director Jim Wooster took the reins at Club Passim and is thrilled to share his plans for 2016. Click here to learn more about Club Passim and a list of their upcoming concerts and more.
Jeanne Denizard: Before you became Club Passim’s Executive Director, you were on the Passim board. Tell me what it’s like to make that transition in the last few months.
Jim Wooster: It’s been a lot of fun and I knew I was going to enjoy it. What struck me the most is the music was even better than I had anticipated and just to be here more often, I’ve seen some incredible shows including Lake Street Dive and Della Mae, who both grew up playing at Passim when they just started out and were very successful. To see them both come back and play a couple of shows here at Passim was a real treat.
It’s been great to learn about some of those artists and some of the newer artists that’s really part of our Passim community like Dietrich Strause and Session Americana who have done very well this year. These are all people who will come here and hang out when they are not playing just to see who else is playing. There is real feeling of community which is great. I’ve also been trying to meet the different people who have been affiliated with Passim over the last 50 years in some cases. It was very exciting to have some time with Betsy Siggins recently who was one of the original founders of Club 47 and roommate of Joan Baez at Boston University back in 1958. She is also someone who has been an integral part of Passim past and present and I had a chance to talk to her about her impressions of what Passim was like when she started. She told me stories about how they actually put the bricks down by hand on the floor in 1963 when they took over our current space. Prior to that, it had been a horse stable in the early days and no one had ever finished off the floor. It’s been great to learn a lot about the past and what Passim has meant to people like Betsy and more recently some of the artists like Ellis Paul and others who have come up from the 80s and the middle years.
I’m really trying to soak it in and get to know what people love about Passim and if they have particular thoughts about where we could go from here. I’m always eager take all that information in so we can preserve what people love most about Club Passim.
JD: You have a wide background in media startups and news. You’ve done a lot of great things in your career. Tell me a little about what makes you excited about music and continuing your career as Executive Director at Club Passim.
JW: I’ve loved music all my life and started playing guitar at a very young age. I came to love rock music in particular and began playing in bands in high school and college and continued for about the first ten years after college within a couple of bands including “Courage Brothers.”
My goal was to be a songwriter and take it to the next level, but had one foot in the conventional world as well and wasn’t completely willing to leap into being an artist full time. I also had figured out other ways to support myself and got into financial management mostly for small companies. Finance makes sense to me and I enjoy it. I also liked the idea of working for a small company knowing everybody and make a significant impact every day at work. With that small company financial background and a real passion for music, when the opportunity came to work for Passim, it seemed like a perfect combination of the two. It’s really great to work for an organization that is by musicians for musicians. I can’t say enough about that. It’s a wonderful thing.
JD: Please tell me what you hope to achieve and what goals you’ve set in 2016 now that you have a full year in front of you.
JW: Our first goal was to redo our kitchen. We had a restaurant called “Veggie Planet” that was formally right downstairs with Club Passim. A couple of years ago, they pulled out to focus on another restaurant they had. It gave us an opportunity to renovate the kitchen and figure out what kind of food we wanted to serve. Dan Hogan, our previous Executive Director, did a fabulous job getting that all together and eventually finding a great partner named Michael Bissanti who has been running the kitchen for us and putting the food on. I can’t say enough about how much time and effort he’s put into the food at dinnertime and we are in the process of deciding when we want to launch a lunch and brunch here at Passim. It would be a fun way to keep the club open for more hours during the day and give people a place to hear music in the middle of the day and not just at the end.
What we are trying to do is really think about how we can preserve the wonderful character of our space and make it as modern as we can to make sure people have a great experience. We’ll also have a chance to redo the website and make it mobile friendly. It’s really just trying to synthesize the idea I’m getting from all the people that love this place and make sure we can carry on that vision in a way we can be happy about and proud of.
Located at 43 Palmer Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Club Passim offers exclusive first access to shows, discounted tickets, and much more as a member! Click here for more information.