Teen Music, Collective Dreams

Jun 21, 2017

A fledgling music organization is just taking shape in Harrisonburg, called the Rocktown Music Collective. But as WMRA’s Christopher Clymer Kurtz reports, it’s not all new.

The Rocktown Music Collective might be a developing dream, but it’s also a decade-old legacy.

[mic check]

More about the legacy in a moment, but first, the dream.

PERRY SHANK: Right now it's kind of pie-in the sky, but you start with these desires, you start with these ideas of ways that you want to grow and what you've got to do is just go for it.

Perry Shank was a vocalist who until a year ago taught music in city elementary schools; he now teaches high school computer science and music production. He and several others -- among them Trent Wagler of the Steel Wheels, James Madison University music professor David Stringham and masters student Jon Stapleton -- have a vision of empowering people to make music. That could mean connecting university music students with locals who want to learn, offering classes at schools, and even having a physical space for lessons, house concerts, and composing.

SHANK: We're trying to get a place where anyone who loves music can learn something new and be able to do that in a way that's valuable to them.

Whether or not that’s pie-in-the-sky, the newly nonprofit Collective has inherited the efforts of another member of the board, a local musician and photographer named Bob Adamek. He coaches teen bands and presents “teen band nights,” which provide an alcohol-free venue for kids to perform.

That began about a decade ago when someone suggested he help his son and some of his friends form a band:

BOB ADAMEK: Light bulb went off over my head. I said, “Do you guys have interest in being in a band?” And they all jumped on it.

Over time leadership emerged from within the group, including from band member Abe Noury, and Adamek reduced his coaching role, mainly reinserting himself when it was time for them to do gigs.

ADAMEK: They played for six years and were so good. Two girls one night came up to Abe and said, “Who's going to be the cool band when you guys graduate?” And Abe says, “Well, it should be you guys. Just talk to Bob. He’ll help you out.”

Adamek’s ongoing teen band nights have found an organizational name and face in the Collective. Another Collective offering has been music classes at local schools and for individuals; still another is working to arrange music-making and learning opportunities for refugee and immigrant families. And, the Collective’s website says, more programing is coming soon.

But of course, the teen band nights are already going strong.

Julia Inouye is one of the lead vocalists for Just in Case, one of the bands featured recently in the upper story of the Explore More Discovery Museum.

JULIA INOUYE: I've had lot of experience performing but not in a setting like this, where it's not like a character or something, you're just being yourself, like singing in front of people. The audience doesn't want to see you go up there and just like, be boring and scared. You just have to think about being entertaining for the audience and also just enjoying it while you're up there.

ADAMEK: So everybody, these guys are from Harrisonburg High School. Give it up for Just in Case.

[music]

Her dad is Bryce Inouye. He said it’s not just about having fun.

BRYCE INOUYE: It helps them learn how to put together music, but more importantly, I think it really helps them learn how to work together as a team to make something that just one of them can't do. It's certainly been a challenge at times, working out schedules and working out differences of opinion, but they make it work and they've learned a lot and have a lot of fun, and the end product is great.

[music]

That recent teen band night? Adamek says it was the 28th or 29th. That’s a wealth of history for the new Rocktown Music Collective, but Adamek says that folding what he’s done into the formally organized Collective is a “no-brainer.”

ADAMEK: We feel like if we can educate kids on contemporary music and contemporary instruments, this is something they can do for the rest of their lives and have fun with it. Even if they don't do it professionally, that’s a tremendous thing to be part of your life.