Jon Tyler Wiley & His Virginia Choir

The show will benefit Loisann’s Hope House

Growing up in Fredericksburg, Va., Jon Tyler Wiley’s house always seemed to have a record playing or music playing, and his first memories of life are listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd cassettes.

“I remember being in the car as a kid and looking at the covers of tapes, like Santana’s Abraxas, and being transfixed,” he said. “When I got older and started banging around on my grandmother’s organ and picking stuff out by ear, it moved into piano lessons, which moved into guitar lessons, which moved into me befriending other kids who were into music.”

It didn’t take long for Wiley to be part of some local bands and so he studied music and sound engineering at Duquesne University, started playing on people’s records and then started a band of his own.

On Saturday, Aug. 29, Jon Tyler Wiley & His Virginia Choir will play at Jammin Java as part of the venue’s outdoor concert series, with all social distance practices in effect.

“Jammin Java has been doing this outdoor concert series for a little bit, and it’s going to be a little bit stripped down—no lights and fog—but it will be a fun time in the parking lot where people can bring a lawn chair and spread out,” Wiley said. “This is a great way to have a rock show the right way in today’s COVID world." 

Joining Wiley in his band are Brian “Piper” Barbre on drums, Joanna Smith on bass, Eddie Dickerson on fiddle and Thomas Johnson on keyboards.

“I’ve played music will all these people in different situations since I was in high school,” Wiley said. “I’ve done country and bluegrass gigs with Eddie, country and rock with Piper and Joanna, and a whole bunch of different things with Thomas." 

So, when some of Wiley’s other band projects started to wind down over the last year or so, he decided to bring all of them together to form Jon Tyler Wiley & His Virginia Choir.

“Initially, I thought I would make a solo record, but I had these friends who are such awesome musicians, I decided to call them to see if they would be interested in playing this music,” he said. “I knew that this wasn’t a backing band, but a great band who could do some amazing things. They are all great players and very accomplished and I’m very fortunate that they are my friends.”

The band started directly before the pandemic happened, and March 7 was its first live show together. It wasn’t long before the coronavirus crisis disrupted their schedule.

“It took until August for us all to be in the same room again,” Wiley said. “We spent that down time working on music via email. I would send demos back and forth to the band, they would record their part, and it would go from person to person." 

The results of that process will turn into either an EP or LP sometime in the foreseeable future.

“It’s a strange way to do things for sure, but we’re trying to make the best of it,” Wiley said. “Earlier this month, we were able to wear masks and practice together in our rehearsal space. But most of the year has been dedicated to writing and the new music.”

Jon Tyler Wiley & His Virginia Choir also has a YouTube page, and have been posting socially distant videos throughout the pandemic, with music recorded with phones and edited together to form a makeshift music video.

The concert is free, but a $5 donation is suggested to benefit Loisann’s Hope House, which helps homeless children and families from the City of Fredericksburg.

Additionally, Wiley will choose his favorite mask in the crowd and award a Virginia Choir T-shirt to the winner.

“We are a hungry, new band and have been in this incubator process the last several months and are just so eager to be playing live again,” Wiley said. “This is our first show back. Music ultimately is about going out and touching people so for us not to be able to do that has been really painful. We’re so excited for the chance to do that again.”

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