By Ashely Lucas
If you’re reading this, chances are, you consider music to be a vital part of life. You appreciate this form of art and more than likely, others as well. Valuing the arts, and understanding their importance as a form of not just enjoyment, but communication as well, is the point of this series I will present to Blue Ridge Rocks readers over the next few months. Blue Ridge KIDS Rock will provide our readership with information about the current organizations and businesses that offer the children in our community what all of us at Blue Ridge Rocks so value: exposure to the wonder that is music.
The Jefferson Center is home to my first subject: the Music Lab. The Music Lab provides an educational experience for kids in grades 6th-12th. At the incredibly affordable price of $100 per semester, students can sign up with no prior musical experience, and receive instruction in music technology, music recording and production, songwriting, and various other parts of the music business. If students are so inclined, they may attend Music Lab workshops, classes, or open lab up to four times a week. My limited math skills tell me that’s around $1.67 per day they attend! #Value! Students also have the opportunity to utilize incredible musicians who provide individual lessons in drums, cello, voice, guitar, piano and violin, at a reasonable hourly rate.
What really makes the Music Lab invaluable is the access the students have to national performing artists who play the Jefferson Center. Many performers hold pre-show masterclasses for Music Lab students where they provide a Q&A session, and oftentimes a mini-performance.
The Music Lab has produced some pretty successful alumni such as Judi Jackson, a talented vocalist now living in London and making a name for herself in the jazz community. Another alum, Ray Cobbs Jr., known as 808-Ray, is producing tracks for some of the biggest hip-hop and R&B stars in the world.
I spoke with Jordan Harman, the Education and Outreach Coordinator at the Music Lab, to get a little behind the scenes intel on what makes the Music Lab such a spectacular resource for Roanoke kids. “There’s an ‘a-ha’ moment that kids get, when that lightbulb goes off when they realize they can do something they thought they couldn’t. That’s my favorite part of teaching. Giving them an outlet, through music, to communicate is vital”. He continued, “they’re learning life lessons through music; learning to be respectful of others opinions in songwriting class, learning patience, teamwork, and the importance of not being immediately gratified.” Cyrus Pace, Executive Director of the Jefferson Center said the purpose of the Music Lab is “to use music as a pathway to character development, valuing lifemanship over musicianship”.
If you or someone you know would like to enroll in the Music Lab, call the Music Lab at 540-685-2309 or email Jordan Harman at [email protected]. Additionally, you can (and should) support the Music Lab and their future endeavors by visiting the Jefferson Center website.