ST. CLOUD -- Every Monday night, the Veranda Lounge in downtown St. Cloud is filled with the smooth and melodious jazz tones of Muggsy Lauer and Karl Van Beckum.

Lauer and Van Beckum have been performing the free weekly jazz nights at the Veranda Lounge for the past 10 years.

"It started just as an excuse to jam -- this isn't for money, it's for exposing jazz music to the community," says Lauer, who has been playing guitar for over 40 years. "I play all sorts of different kinds of music, but Jazz is where my heart and my soul is."

"We could've easily done a rock night or a folk night," Van Beckum says. "But there are no jazz nights in St. Cloud, so we just [said] 'let's do jazz'."

Lauer and Van Beckum perform with their band every Monday from 8:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. at the Veranda Lounge at Pioneer Place. The relatively early time and intimate venue make for an enjoyable and relaxing night out.

"Keeping it early is a great excuse to not sit on your couch and watch TV," Lauer says. "You could come hear some working musicians pouring their souls into the instruments and it's fun -- you may just discover that you like jazz."

"We have a lot of people who may never have met each other in any other situation who became friends here," Van Beckum says. "It's an easy-going environment, really laid-back, and it's free -- free is good."

Photo by Isaac Schweer, WJON