By: Ryan Kor
“That’s the SpongeBob theme song,” I thought to myself as I listened intently to the familiar tune. The hearty drone of the accordion echoed off of the brick walls that line the streets of downtown Athens. The sound drew me in and I pursued it until I found its source; a bearded young man who manipulated the instrument as a skilled puppeteer operates his puppet.
His name is Jared Price, a recent graduate who obtained his Master’s degree in social studies education from the University of Georgia. Price has been playing the accordion at his post downtown since his freshman year at the University of Georgia in 2008. Price said that playing downtown “at first felt pretty weird” until he realized that he was not alone. Along with guitarists, bongo players and singers, Price is part of the thriving community of Athens’ street performers.
“I’d like to think it adds a little bit of character to the downtown atmosphere,” said Price. And I’d have to agree with his statement. Price’s music creates a whimsical vibe, and when he is playing at night, the lights from the storefronts and the Georgia Theater make downtown feel like a carnival.
Price began to play after he received a toy accordion for Christmas as a child. Since then, he has expanded his instrumental ability to include the concertina, which is a miniature accordion, and the ocarina, a flute-like instrument. The concertina accompanied Price on his five month long hike through the Appalachian Trail. His musical repertoire includes videogame themes, Irish Folk songs, and French café tunes.
“I have kind of a quirky personality and this was a way to act in line with that,” Price said about his downtown performances. When I asked him how he would describe his musical ability, he humbly said it was “superficial, but passable.”
In my opinion, his work is far beyond passable. As long as Price remains in Athens, the quaint melody of the “Drunken Sailor” will enliven the downtown air and add to the artistic energy of the town.