Music and Community

Jared Cortese talks about music, community, and living the dream.

Jared Cortese head shot

Jared Cortese: Musician, mentor, dad, neighbor

Jared: Guitarist, Music Teacher, and member of the local band, Warren Dunes. He teaches guitar, ukulele, songwriting, and music theory out of his home in Whittier Heights.

Warren Dunes plays PNW Tropicalia: “A style of Beach Rock born from the cold waters and grey sky beaches of the Salish Sea.”

Their debut album was voted KEXP’s #20 album of 2021: Listen to “Get Well Soon.

They have performed at a variety of local festivals: such as Zoo Tunes, Treefort Music Fest, and Ballard Seafood Fest.

Catch them at Crown Hill Village Summer Street Festival on June 24- a free event presented by the Crown Hill Village Association.

Warren Dunes: Dominic Cortese, Jared Cortese, and Julia Massey. You can see some really terrific photos of the band performing at the Neptune Theater in August of 2021 on the Hardly Raining music and culture blog.

I’ve wanted to be a musician since I was very little: I thought I would go to college and that would equal being a musician, and the dream that I had when I was five would happen.

I realized that it was a more realistic goal to play music every day: As soon as I accepted that definition of being a musician, I felt more in control. I play music every day because it’s built into my life. I don’t really have a choice.

Being a musician is so much more than just the selfish act of playing music: even more than that, it’s about connecting people and creating communities for other people. (It’s about) helping people express themselves. It’s been so much more than I ever expected because of that.

Warren Dunes: Jared Cortese, Julia Massey, and Dominic Cortese.

Seattle is a great place to make art: It’s one of the few places that values the arts, and that’s everything. People don’t make me feel like I’m choosing some weird lifestyle.

Seattle makes you feel like what you do benefits society: and that makes it so much easier, and so much more enjoyable. I’d never experienced that until I moved to Seattle- adults valuing making themselves vulnerable. I feel like we really walk the walk here in Seattle and it really really makes us live full lives and I love being a part of it.

Vintage photo of Jared seated before a green wall lined with guitars surrounded by students as he kicks off a recital at the Guitar Store.

Guitar Store, circa 2016: Jared is surrounded by students and families as he kicks off a recital. These recitals- held in public spaces around the neighborhood- are a central feature of his teaching philosophy. He uses them to help his students grow in their love of performing as much as in their music skills and music literacy. 

It’s fun to be in a room with people who are willing to be vulnerable: especially as you become an adult. I’d never experienced that until I moved to Seattle- adults valuing making themselves vulnerable. I feel like it really makes us live full lives and I love being a part of it.

When you’re a little kid you’re surrounded by that: and then as we get older, we’re less and less likely to let ourselves get into that space. You miss that and you don’t even know you miss it. That’s why I do recitals- it fills my bucket just to watch my students be vulnerable and come to the realize that this has value.

When you are feeling really uncomfortable: then you realize, “if this is making me feel this way this is also going to resonate with people.” People are attracted to people who say things that they are not willing to say themselves.

Jared singing and playing during the recital so that his student, Patti, can focus on playing her guitar.

Jared sings and accompanies his student, Patti, while she concentrates on playing her guitar.  He models vulnerability at his recitals, where he will sing or play just about anything if it helps his students feel confident enough to perform in front of an audience.

It’s very rare, statistically, for someone to be in music for as long as I have: A lot of things have had to change, and there has to be an evolution of (your goals and) your expectations.

I’ve been performing since I was 11: I made it through the college hump- a lot of people drop out at that point. I made it through my 30’s when you have kids, and a lot of people drop off at that point.

I would do it for free: but we also have had to figure out how to make it work financially. As a parent, as an adult, there are only so many hours in the day, and it has to make sense.

I always say to my band mates: “I like playing to people.” Whether it’s a full room at the Sunset or some big stadium, I wouldn’t think, “ooh, that sounds scary.” I just really like connecting to people in that way.

Two of Jared's guitar students rocked open mic night at The Skylark in October 2022.

Two of Jared’s students, William and Scarlett- both 16- perform together at their first open mic show at Skylark Cafe in West Seattle. Several of Jared’s students attended this event. Many came away with a new love of performing in front of an audience.

Surround yourself with people who nurture vulnerability: Don’t give your energy to people who make you feel anything other than believing in yourself.

You just have to show up: Sing. Play. Play loud. Play soft. You’re giving everybody a gift with your performance.

Jared and Julia's parrot, Bacon, features prominently on the band's drumhead.

Julia and Jared’s parrot, Bacon, features prominently on the band’s drumhead.

You can find Jared: