Music academy offers haven for young players

Published: Sunday, April 3 2005 12:00 a.m. MST

It started with a dream back when David Murphy was a student. Now, 22 years later, the dream is a fledgling reality with the Wasatch Music Coaching Academy, 959 E. 900 South, a place Murphy hopes will be a haven for young musicians.

"The competitive edge of college and things like that was such a shock to me personally," Murphy said. "I thought, 'Wouldn't it be neat if there was a place that younger people could go in preparation? . . . Where they could get improvisation classes and theory classes and play with small groups, ensembles and chamber groups — even before they got to college?'"

After teaching in the public-school system for many years and spending some time in the private-business world, Murphy saw things coming together in a way that started pushing him to fulfill his dream.

Even with his other obligations, Murphy said that for the past 30-plus years, he had always continued performing and recording as a professional percussionist/drummer. So he started talking with his musical colleagues about his ideas for the studio.

The response was not only positive, but he said that many of the musicians had already had a similar idea themselves.

Further, the Alan Weight Music Studios kept coming up as a suggestion for a location. "(Weight's) dream was very similar at that studio as to what mine has been," said Murphy, a place "where there could be a multifaceted opportunity for music education for young people."

Although Weight had passed away, Murphy said that Weight's daughter, Cheryl Herman, was happy to house a program that so closely matched what her father would have wanted. "Our goal is to offer the private lessons, but what makes us unique is to offer different types of clinics and classes — theory classes, both for jazz theory and legit (classical) theory, and improvisation classes, classes on the music business, history of music classes, classes on production, on recording."

Eventually Murphy would like to offer almost any class found at an accredited university and provide the necessary recording studios and equipment for hands-on experience.

In fact, he's hoping to put together a summer workshop where a student can come with a musical idea and see it through the recording process all the way to marketing.

Frequent ensemble-playing experience is another hallmark of the program. "We want these kids to perform, to perform with each other and perform with professional musicians and get out of just playing in their house."

In fact, Murphy even tries to get gigs around town for some of the kids, although he quickly clarified that they are "healthy gigs, places they might be able to play on a Sunday afternoon."

Now that the doors are open, Murphy said, he's able to offer some but not all of his full vision. The limitation, he said, is student enrollment.

For example, Murphy would like to put together some small jazz combos and several big bands, but there isn't the critical mass of students playing the necessary instruments to do so.

Still, he's optimistic as the fourth-quarter student recital is being prepared. For this he has hired several professional musicians to play with the students. "The parents really caught the vision of what we're trying to accomplish," he said, "and as we get more students there and have more of these recitals, I know that it will continue to feed itself."

Most of the faculty, Murphy said, are working musicians themselves — so far, coming mostly from the jazz/pop world. But Murphy intends to include the classical spectrum as well. Already he has recruited violinist Isabella des Etoiles, who is busy putting together chamber ensembles for the summer, and teaching a "Circles of Music" class. And last month the first rock-band recital was held.

An outreach effort — working with local public and private schools — has also been started. Groups of faculty, four to nine members each, have gone into various schools to perform, offer coaching and work with students, free of charge to the schools.

The academy has also started coordinating with the University of Utah's jazz department to offer, possibly by next year, summer classes that would correlate with the U.'s program.

Eventually, Murphy says, he also hopes to establish a nonprofit arm to the studio so that students who would otherwise not be able to afford the lessons can also participate.

It's been a long time in coming, but Murphy is excited to see his dream finally materialize. And while there's still more to come before it reaches his full vision, Murphy says it's growing.


If you go

What: Recital, Wasatch Music Coaching Academy students

Where: Salt Lake City Library auditorium

When: April 9, 2:45 p.m.

How much: Free

Phone: 560-6437

Web: www.wasatchmusic.com


E-mail: rcline@desnews.com

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