Utah-based MusicGarage.org offers summer music camps for youths
Lottie Johnson, For the Deseret News
MusicGarage.Org is an after-school band program in Salt Lake that strives to help kids develop musicianship by tackling skills ranging from music production to stage presentation and performance.
Steve Auerbach still remembers the first time he followed his grandfather to work. He was (ed:) 10 years old, and he walked down a tiny alley and stepped into a room where he saw a group of men putting on suits and ties. His grandfather, who was then the concertmaster at the Broadway Theatre in Manhattan, turned to him and exclaimed, “Steve, these are all the musicians!”
Auerbach could hardly contain his excitement as he thought his grandfather had said “magicians.”
“I thought to myself, ‘It’s an army of magic!’” he recalled in an interview with the Deseret News. “I went around asking them to do tricks. Those musicians didn’t know what the heck was going on.”
While he may have been slightly disappointed that his grandfather’s work didn’t actually consist of card tricks and pulling rabbits out of hats, he soon became captivated with the musicians as he regularly sat in the orchestra pit and watched Broadway performances.
This introduction to music at an early age has had a lasting influence on Auerbach’s life as he went on to become a bandleader in New York and eventually ended up out West, where he helped launch a School of Rock franchise in Utah, he said. In 2009, Auerbach founded MusicGarage.Org, an after-school band program in Salt Lake that strives to help kids develop musicianship by tackling skills ranging from music production to stage presentation and performance.
This summer, the program is offering a variety of band camps — rock, metal, blues, jazz and bluegrass — as well as a songwriting and a recording camp for youths ages 11-17.
MusicGarage.Org had its beginning in a 12-by-12-foot room. After a few moves and transitions to slightly larger venues, Auerbach has recently put the finishing touches on a new studio in the Sugar House area. Describing the several past years as “an uphill battle,” he said he feels humbled that MusicGarage.Org now has this new studio to call home.
It didn’t take long speaking with Auerbach to learn that everything about MusicGarage.Org and its new studio is designed to benefit kids.
“The windows are low, and everything’s set so that there’s lots of safety and transparency,” he said, pointing to the practice spaces in the studio. “So what we’ve created is a fun and safe environment for kids to do something they love doing, and to do it in a different way than anybody else does it.”
All of the summer camps will take place at the Sugar House studio. Salt Lake City native and pop singer Julian Moon will share her knowledge and experience with aspiring songwriters during the songwriting camp, which will take place June 19-23. In addition, the MusicGarage.Org staff will offer three recording camps throughout July and August, where those interested in the music production process can learn basic recording principles and techniques.
Three band camps will also take place throughout June and July, but whether it’s blues, jazz, rock, metal or bluegrass depends on the preferences of the kids that enroll, Auerbach said. The MusicGarage.Org staff will bring in professional musicians based in Utah to offer their expertise, including Tara Shupe, who will share her mandolin, fiddling, and guitar techniques with aspiring bluegrass pickers.
During the camps, kids will have the opportunity to work with the professional musicians that comprise the MusicGarage.Org staff. They will receive coaching and instruction, and as part of the band camps, spend a majority of their time collaborating and rehearsing with their bandmates to get a set of songs performance-ready for a concert that will conclude the camp. All of this is accomplished in five days.
“The camps are intensive, but they’re fun,” Auerbach said.
With each camp having only room for up to 15 kids, Auerbach said it is a “very immersive” program as the staff works hard to combine all of the various skill levels, personalities, and abilities so that every participant has a part. He added that his staff is dedicated to helping the youths become team players and reliable bandmates.
“It’s about building a sense of involvement,” he said. “They need a place to belong. What we try to do is wrap the program around the child."
Auerbach said it is impressive how much the kids accomplish in such a short period of time. While the camps mostly focus on musical development, he said it has been rewarding to also watch the kids evolve socially to the point where even some of his more shy participants end up enthusiastically shaking their heads and jumping around on stage to the rhythms of songs such as Santana’s “Black Magic Woman” or Foreigner’s “Jukebox Hero.”
“It’s all about them doing their best, because at least they tried,” Auerbach said. "It’s about the little victories. We want to encourage them to overcome the obstacles that each one of them has toward this kind of success.”
Auerbach also values the end-of-camp concert because it brings families together to not only support their kids’ talents and progress but to also just have fun and enjoy the music.
“(The concert) creates this multi-generational community around (music),” Auerbach said. “It’s not necessarily about virtuosity at all — it’s about the experience, and the summer camps are an experience that (the kids) will never forget. So register, sign up, and come jam with us.”
For more information on the camps and to register, see MusicGarage.Org. Although there is no registration deadline, an early registration discount, MG50, is being offered through April 30.