Jimmy Franklin, owner of Jam Academy in Oceanport, started teaching music before he could drive.
“At age 16, I had different jobs here and there, but I really looked forward to teaching because it was my passion, even as a teenager,” Franklin said. “I started doing it for the money at first, but I found the more I did it, the more I found I wanted to do it constantly. I was pretty much self-taught with guitar since fifth grade and drums since second grade.
“I would go and put out business cards at the local video store in Oceanport and I got calls for lessons,” Franklin said. “My mom would answer the phone and be like my secretary, booking appointments for me to teach music to customers. Right now, I am 30 years old and I still teach my very first student. It’s great.”
When Franklin was in second grade, he started out trying to play piano, but his teacher told him he was too hyperactive. Instead being discouraged, Franklin channeled that energy into another instrument, the drums.
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“Drums were very classically trained and regimented for me,” Franklin said. “I had a lot of different teachers, as I pursued drums academically with every music program that was out there. I did this all the way up until high school, where I joined the marching band and took part in competitions. I became the leader of the marching band and that year was the most competitive year for my high school, Shore Regional, on record. I believe it is still the record to this day.
“At the same time, I was being recruited by the United States Marines Corps to come and play for them, but I ended up not pursuing that opportunity,” Franklin said. “I was really split between playing drums and playing the guitar, as I had already formed a garage band playing guitar, despite achieving so much playing the drums.”
When he was 13, he would walk around his neighborhood looking for other musicians who would play with him and stumbled upon a high school band in his travels.
“I would hear kids jamming out and playing music,” Franklin said. “I would bring my guitar and try to keep up with them because I just loved to play so much and I wanted to improve by any means necessary. I joined a high school band when I was only in middle school. They continued to play music with me and we eventually got really great.
“At one point, we opened for the Jonas Brothers at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, as they were just coming up and becoming popular,” Franklin said. “They asked our band, Hollander, to be the opening act at that particular show and we were so excited and flattered that we immediately agreed and everything went great.”
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Becoming a professional
Franklin got to a point where he was undecided on how he wanted to pursue his music. He was still teaching guitar and drums to his students on a limited basis, but he also was playing drums in the marching band on Saturday mornings and then playing guitar in his own band on Saturday nights.
“The bottom line is that, anytime you can experience something out of your comfort zone, not just as a musician, but whatever your field is, it will always add to your own blend of what you can offer,” Franklin said. “I felt like I was a Clark Kent by day with my drums and then a Superman by night when I played guitar.”
By the time Franklin was in high school, he and his band had been signed to a record label so he pursued that path.
“We started recording in upstate New York with a well-known music producer and were touring at the same time,” Franklin said. “Unfortunately, the band would eventually dismantle amid some creative differences. That didn’t stop me from continuing to tour and play music with other bands. I would just go on tour a little bit and then come back and teach. That was my routine.
“With all the motions I was going through, I still loved to come back and teach music because it made my skills more refined,” Franklin said. “That was one of the most fun parts about it. It was more about figuring out who I could learn from musically and how I could just get better and better.”
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Franklin eventually decided to stop teaching music as a side gig and focus on it fulltime.
“I came back from a long tour to teach someone who was an intermediate and I did not know what to do,” Franklin said. “My chops were just not there and I just felt burnt out. I made a decision to buckle down and get back on track with practicing and sharpening the blade. That is really what sparked my desire to do this exclusively. It just felt right.”
Teaching as a career
On April 2, 2021, Franklin officially opened Jam Academy.
“To say that I was nervous was definitely an understatement,” Franklin said. “I knew I had the necessary plans in place to make sure that I was OK and it wasn’t such a blind leap. Even though I had a cushion in the form of my own band, Nick Ryan and the Messi, who I still play with to this day, and a YouTube channel called Working Class Musician that is always growing, I was not 100% certain of how things would turn out. I put my shoulder to the wind and didn’t look back.
“One thing that has kept me going, since I officially opened in 2021, is what I seem to hear a lot from my students,” Franklin said. “When asked about what they want to do when they grow up, they respond pretty assuredly that they want to play music for a living just like me. That is what fuels and drives me to do this consistently. It means a lot.”
Franklin currently teaches drums and guitar, but he has also extended his instrument variation to bass guitar and ukulele.
“Both of those instruments are ones that I picked up and had a lot of fun with and then didn’t want to put down,” Franklin said.
During the pandemic, Franklin continued his lessons online and was able to still do it effectively.
“The whole pandemic taught me what not to do with my business,” Franklin said. “I knew it was a good decision to shut down the physical studio and do strictly online sessions. That ended up working out and was just as effective as a face-to-face meeting.”
Franklin has achieved a lot in his career and life, but he does have plans for the future.
“I want to build up programs for my students to give them a similar sense of how I learned to play,” Franklin said. “I want my students to get into playing with their own bands. That is what is coming down the pipeline very soon.”
Owner: Jimmy Franklin
Hours: 1 to 9 pm weekdays