The Music Resource Center in Charlottesville is celebrating 20 years of serving the community. WMRA’s Sefe Emokpae tells us more about the MRC, its mission and how it’s worked toward that goal through the past two decades.
It’s a Saturday afternoon and The Music Resource Center is hosting Blues, Beats and BBQ at the Ix Art Park. It’s an opportunity for the community to come together and learn more about the now 20-year-old facility that’s serving Charlottesville’s youth through music. Pia Donovan is executive director.
PIA DONOVAN: So Music Resource Center is a safe and diverse community experience. We’re sort of a community center that focuses on music and the kids can come in and learn a diverse set of skills. Everything from the music they come to learn to the soft skills that they don’t come to learn but get any way, community leadership, collaboration, responsibility, that kind of stuff.
The MRC boasts a fully equipped recording studio, three rehearsal rooms, five project studios, a dance studio, a performance hall, and almost every instrument you could think of.
DONOVAN: Right down to the drumsticks, you just walk in the door and you’re ready to go.
The Center serves kids from sixth to 12th grade with a wide range of styles including hip-hop, rock, and electronic dance music. In the early 90s, John Hornsby, who was a local musician at the time, wanted to provide a different outlet for kids to pursue in their free time.
DONOVAN: He really saw a lot of kids falling through the cracks in after school time. What he saw happening was kids joining Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, playing sports, doing all kinds of other things but there really wasn’t a place for kids to do music so he started doing surveys of local high school and middle school kids and part of the survey was what do you like to do, what do you do after school and if you were able to go to a center that provided everything for you musically, would you do that? 90% of the kids answered that they’d be there three or four days a week.”
And now they are. Doors opened in 1995 and today the Music Resource Center has more than 200 members and another 300 kids they serve through community outreach programs in the city of Charlottesville. Donovan says in the next 20 years, they now hope to find a way to measure their progress and be able to use numbers and data to signify what effect the MRC has had on the community’s youth.
DONOVAN: Right now we’re in a phase of formulizing everything. We’re putting in a measurement system, we’ve put in a customized member tracking system, we’re working with the schools and the police department to compare data so at the end of this year we’ll be able to look at our statistics quarterly and say OK, we’ve served this many kids they’ve spent this many hours in here, their grades have done this.
The Music Resource center releases a compilation album every year and this year’s 20th edition has been submitted for Grammy consideration in the children’s category. Donovan says its just one of the many examples of the talent that comes from the uniquely diverse group of members who utilize the center.
DONOVAN: One of the kids told me recently, ‘one of the things that’s best at being at music resource center is that I’m not a kid or a teenager that doesn’t know, I’m just a fellow musician’ -- that the kids treat him that way and the staff treat him that way so I think were really providing a unique space for these guys.