go to the page
  • Home
  • /Archive by category ' Highlights '

Archive For: Highlights

Jenn Rogar Sings Her Story from a Mountain Top: the Interview, January 22, 2021

By Pieter Pastoor

Below is a short bio of Jenn Rogar.

“I started singing as a child in my room growing up in Los Angeles (Van Nuys and Woodland Hills) to singers like Elton John, Helen Reddy and Julie Andrews. I put on plays in my garage that I wrote and performed in for my neighbors. In high school I played flute in the band and was too shy to sing. During the Karaoke craze I began to perform and also sang the title song on a CD put out by my church. I sang and performed with Monkey Business, a light-hearted singing telegram service in Sacramento in the late ’80s. I have sung and performed in some fashion my whole life.

“In the late ’90s I became a singer-songwriter in the tradition of Joan Baez, who accompanies herself on an acoustic guitar, and began performing in that fashion in 1998 at open mics and farmers markets. I took voice lessons with outstanding pop vocalist Sana Christian in Sacramento, and jazz- and oper- trained Claudia Newberry in San Francisco, and a half-dozen guitar lessons with Sacramento’s guitar master Steve MClane. I never read a book or took a lesson on how to write a song. I just started writing songs after I learned about three chords.

“I picked up the guitar after a few frustrating auditions with cover bands that were more intent on hearing themselves be heard that hearing the singer. I stopped performing from 2000 to 2004 while I attended law school. After graduation I began performing again, and worked on my first CD, Place Called Humanity. My mother died in 2008 and I stopped performing again. I returned to performing in 2010 after having taken the Bar exam for the second time and I have been singing ever since with my own band or solo.

“I stopped performing when everything shut down last March. I sang for a few months every Thursday night at the Shasta Inn in Mount Shasta, where I now live, but now that is gone because all of the bars and restaurants are shut down again. I created a second CD called The River in 2013, did a music video for the title track, and was nominated for a Sammie award under the Singer-Songwriter category (Sacramento Area Music Award) in 2018.

“I was well known in Sacramento for being a topical singer-songwriter and was not one to hide my politics. I sang probably a dozen times at the state Capitol for various causes and sang politically tinged songs at those clubs or restaurants that would allow me. With time it became the in thing to do to be political and I could sing everywhere. I have sung almost everywhere in Sacramento. I sang at rallies and marches, and created and hosted numerous benefits for the homeless in Sacramento as well as attend city council meetings to advocate for the homeless.

“I wrote a lot of songs that just came to me to easily and from experiences I had. I am not writing at this time, but I wish I were and I know I should with all that is going on. I do not want to be political anymore. I prefer to entertain people and sing songs that are light and classic like, and of my neutral and fun originals or standards from the past.

I am pursuing acting because there is nowhere to sing and perform and I love to perform. I feel lost not performing. I have always wanted to act but never had the time.

“Now that I am retired as a teacher I have the time and I intend to split my time between Mount Shasta and Hollywood. I have a profile I built on a website called Backstage (at www.backstage.com(link is external)) under my real name, Jennifer Andree Rogar. This site helps you secure acting roles. I feel my experience as a performer at gigs from Luna’s to Harlows in Sacramento, or even Morro Bay and San Francisco, have prepared me well for a career in acting. I also have some acting training with the renowned acting coach in Sacramento Ed Claudio. I am going to try to sing in LA as well if and when that ever opens up again.

“There is much more on my website at www.jennrogar.com(link is external) about me and interviews that can be found on You Tube that I have done with SacTV or Listen Up! Sacramento or Soapbox!

“The best song I ever wrote was ‘Shasta,’ which is about Mount Shasta, and now I live in a beautiful home on a half-acre on the mountain. I always need to be creating art in some way to be happy, and this mountain magically keeps that alive in me. I am also interested in screenwriting. This is the best time of my life — finally free to do art full-time. I always wanted to be an actress and sing and nothing else, and now I get a chance to do that.”

Sacramento folk singer Jenn Rogar plays music with a message

By Zachary Ahern, Submerge, May 29, 2013

Jenn Rogar, Photo by Sandra Delores

Photo by Sandra Delores.

It quickly became clear that Jenn Rogar is much more than just a singer performing folk music as a hobby. She is an artist actively trying to change the world and just happens to be a talented singer and songwriter who spreads her beliefs through song.

As a schoolteacher, law practitioner and mother, Rogar has a wealth of life experience to draw upon. She has also been playing music off and on since 1998, as time permits or whenever she receives waves of inspiration. As it turns out, she wasn’t even familiar with the folk music genre until she met her friend and mentor, singer Diane Patterson while attending college to become a schoolteacher. Rogar cites Patterson, a fellow political leftist, activist and socially conscious local, as a main inspiration for launching her music career.

Rogar debuted Place Called Humanity, a stripped down folk album, which on tracks such as “Tree of Life” and “Torah Song,” raises moral and societal concerns and challenges listeners to take the high road; simply by attempting to be more responsible and aware of our environment. Jenn has set forth upon releasing her sophomore album Shasta within the next couple months and plans on having an accompanying slide show of Mount Shasta while performing the title track. This album release event will likely be educational, similar to her experiences shared here. Jenn will also be performing every Thursday for the next few weeks showcasing this material at Old Ironsides.

The common theme of folk music is to tell a story. What are your favorite stories to tell when you’re on stage?
I enjoy telling stories about the planet and anti-war sentiment with weaving in more mainstream topics while attempting to have a positive impact. As a history major and teacher, I have a background of caring about several issues such as the Navajo Indians and the environment. Some songs are simply born spontaneously.

What can we do to change the world? Where does it start?
Stop listening to the mainstream media. Seek out free speech radio news. You have to educate yourself and learn how things really work. There’s so much going on while everyone’s texting, playing games and watching reality shows. There are so many distractions and people are getting numb. But you can’t do it all. You have to find a niche that you care about, whether it’s the death penalty or birth control or trees.

When did you begin having these realizations as an activist and what has influenced you?
A Ph.D. graduate student, whom I was dating while in college at UC Davis, first influenced me. With experiences I had and being open minded, I became more aware. It was a gradual process. I was very influenced by the Redwood Summer, the Earth First kids who were activists who took residence in the Redwood trees in Humboldt, Calif. Like Utah Phillips said, “You pick things up out of the river.” River would represent history to me. I’m trying to spread the word through songs. I’m still trying to figure out how to reduce my carbon footprint.

How have you made a difference as a teacher, lawyer and songwriter?
I start by telling the truth. I taught in the classroom for several years and was good at imparting knowledge but was not good at disciplining the kids. There was a story written about me by a right-wing organization that has claimed I have participated in ZEP [Zinn Education Project] warfare, essentially claiming Howard Zinn instructs teachers to infect children’s minds. So I simply taught a chapter out of Zinn’s book about Christopher Columbus. Any kid will tell you they know what he [Columbus] did to the indigenous people. The history books will tell you he was a hero, but the story is now on the Web. Any time you go outside of the box, you run risks, but if not, what are you going to do? Just lie down and die?

I also have a law degree from Lincoln Law School. Since then I have been able to see things with a better vantage point. I’ve been taught contracts, real property, criminal law, so now I can see the bigger picture of what’s going on. It’s shown me we need to focus on one area and then find the niche of where they belong. As a songwriter, I feel sharper. Songs just come out now. If I think too hard, it won’t happen. It’s important to have a concept and then refine what I’ve done. To just go out there and sing about nothing can be bland or boring.

What is your main focus or niche for activism right now?
I’ve done rallies against the death penalty, against domestic violence and anti-war rallies, but my current focus is the war on dealing with the environment. But more specifically, we need to breathe the trees by limiting fossil fuels and saving the rainforests. I learned the other day that we share half our DNA with trees, so I feel a strong connection to trees. Utah Phillips once said, “There are too many people doing good things to afford me the luxury of being pessimistic.” If you think about it, there are so many good people out there. We have the power of the purse. We can make the choices for ourselves what to support. All people are good people if we get the truth. Some people are just misinformed.

Besides the causes you’re supporting by performing at rallies and fundraisers? What do you enjoy about these events?
Community happens at these events. That’s something that the current generation is starved for. Positive energy gets going and everyone feeds off of one another. You go to a café today and see everyone on a laptop and no one’s talking.

Can you explain the significance of your song “Dove Spring Girl?”
Dove Spring is the area near Flagstaff, Ariz., where the Navajo people live. All the relatives lived near each other and were forcibly relocated due to the politics that began in the ‘50s. The families lived there with no running water and weren’t able to grow crops or live a healthy or traditional way of life; they were forced to live a more modern way of life in the subdivisions, eating pizza and playing video games. So the song centers upon a girl, Janie, I met and the hopes of her to have a better life.

How does your upcoming album Shasta differ from Place Called Humanity?
Shasta is a bit of a departure from the first album. After performing off and on for several years as a solo artist, Mike Farrell and I started performing together and then recruited Eric Everett on the drums. Mike contributed a lot of music on the album minus the drums, produced the album and even learned to play the organ in the studio. Eric cleverly added drums to Shasta and then to several other tracks, even though I hadn’t intended drums to be on the new album at all. The songs are all over the map. There are folk songs and blues songs on the album. I started researching Mount Shasta on the Internet about its spiritual qualities. I visited Mount Shasta with my daughter and had an overwhelming feeling of joy permeating through my body, which I attributed to the secrets of the mountain. Mount Shasta is a true spiritual vortex. We need to reconnect with nature. And it’s not just about politics, but it’s about telling a story.

What’s the most memorable thing to ever happen to you while performing?
A lady came up to me and said, “I love your heart, soul and spirit. I’m totally a right wing enthusiast and don’t believe what you say, but you’ve got soul.” I didn’t quite reach her, but I did. We get caught up in performing and will get nerves, but the best thing to say to you is “this is not about me.” I’m just trying to make people feel happy for the moment. I didn’t expect to be doing this. But that’s life. It takes you along on this journey and you have to be ready to take the day head on.

For more about Jenn Rogar, check her out at Reverbnation.com/jennrogar.

The personal is political

Sacramento singer-songwriter Jenn Rogar’s folk songs encompass homelessness, global politics and affairs of the heart

By Rachel Leibrock, Sac. News & Review, Jan. 16, 2014

jenn rogar

Have guitar, will change world. PHOTO BY LISA BAETZ, SN&R.

The first time Jenn Rogar delved into activism, it struck the singer-songwriter as kind of strange.

It was the early 2000s, and Rogar, outraged by the government’s post-September 11 actions in Iraq, grabbed her guitar to join a protest.

“I got out there and sang and marched—I’d never marched before,” she says now. “I felt kind of funny, like I was doing something wrong, but then it was also a liberating feeling.”

Certainly, it fit the path Rogar had already forged both creatively and intellectually.

“I’m a big Joan Baez fan,” she says of the ’60s-era activist folk singer. “I majored in history and dated a guy who was a Communist. I’m definitely left and I’m definitely a Democrat.”

In the years since that first experience, Rogar’s protested and marched for numerous causes, including women’s rights, domestic-violence awareness and homelessness. She got involved with the latter cause after a friend introduced her to Food Not Bombs, a collective that serves free vegan and vegetarian meals to those in need. Rogar volunteered with the group and also marched with Safe Ground Sacramento, a nonprofit that works to protect homeless residents. Rogar will perform as part of the fourth Safe Ground benefit on Saturday, January 17.

The singer-songwriter’s involvement with the cause grew, in earnest, in May 2013.

“I’d see the homeless day after day and decided [I needed] to do something,” she explains.

And so, with the help of some friends, Rogar organized a benefit at Luna’s Café & Juice Bar, with proceeds benefiting both Safe Ground and the Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee.

Rogar’s also kept busy offstage, attending city council meetings to protest local government’s treatment of the homeless.

“They’re really not very responsible,” she says of the council. “Yes, there are people who don’t want to work and who abuse the system, but there are also people out there who are mentally ill.”

The Auburn native’s take on folk music, which recalls the likes of Holly Near, Woody Guthrie and, yes, Joan Baez, is a natural fit for her activist sensibility. Not all her songs, however, take on political causes. Some are deeply personal. On “The River,” for example, the title track from her 2013 album by the same name, Rogar addresses a friend’s drug addiction.

“[When] I started writing, it became my personal therapy,” says Rogar, who first picked up a guitar in the ’90s.

At one point, however, she traded in the guitar for textbooks, studying at Lincoln Law School. Eventually she returned to music, and when she did, Rogar, who currently teaches high school, found new inspiration in the coffeehouse scene when she befriended guitarist Mike Farrell.

Rogar, who says she’d long been a fan of Farrell, says she was “smitten” with his talent. The two, who were even roommates for a while, started playing together and, joined by a handful of musicians, recorded The River.

The experience, she says, proved rewarding.

“I became a better musician,” she says.

These days, Rogar plays with a full band comprising Steve McLane (guitar), Ken Rabiroff (bass), Darin Bradford (drums) and Kristine David (backup vocals). In the coming months, she says, the band is expanding its sound to encompass jazz and country.

“I just want to entertain,” she says.

To that end, Rogar adds that she plans to somewhat “depoliticize,” by shifting her focus away from activism and back to her music—at least in part.

“I’m learning that [I need] to focus on just one [cause]: homelessness,” she says. “Otherwise, I can’t get my music done.”

It’s both a move toward personal balance and one aimed at furthering her various causes.

“If I go further musically and lighten up on the politics for a while, then I’ll have more money and influence to focus on helping others.”

See the article at SN&R.