Utah Arts Alliance’s loft is prime garage-band practice space. Located in industrial South Salt Lake, it’s open and remote. The only neighbor to annoy is RC Willey, and its spokeswoman, Paige Davis, doesn’t seem the type to complain—unless the dulcet tones of fledgling rockers (sometimes out-of-tune or off-time) are her pet peeve.
Those very sounds—a croaked cover of “Crimson & Clover”—emanate from a small room down a back hallway at the UAA building. A four-piece band of teenagers (two guitars, drums, keys) and one big dog stand crammed into the room, where teacher Steve Auerbach wildly waves his arms, signaling chord changes. The song and the class conclude, and Auerbach praises the band—especially the tow-headed guitarist who bravely stepped up to sing. “They’re getting better,” he says of the group, part of Auerbach’s MusicGarage program.
A lifelong musician/producer/engineer, Auerbach helped establish the Paul Green School of Rock in Utah. When PGSoR downsized its Utah presence last year, Auerbach’s position was eliminated. Hoping to continue in that line of work, he started MusicGarage.org. A different kind of youth music academy, the program exists as an affordable alternative—not necessarily a competitor—to schools like PGSoR and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Academy.
According to Auerbach, fees for those programs range from $200-$350/month, and include private lessons, rehearsals and shows. While not unreasonable, the rates can be tough for some families to afford.
MusicGarage “is not a music school and we’re not a business,” he says. “We’re more like a music club or a community.” Private teachers keep on teaching; MusicGarage is an add-on service where musicians of all ages and stylistic leanings can get performance training for the rock-bottom price of $10 an hour. The only restriction is that, due to the band-performance emphasis, only intermediate-to-advanced players may enroll. Ya gotta have some chops if you wanna get in on the gigs MusicGarage sets up after their 10-week cram sessions. Students might even have to lay down some tracks at MusicGarage’s sister facility, Midnight Records Studio.
In its short existence, MusicGarage has put down real roots in the community, teaming with the Salt Lake City School District on a Sony-sponsored music-production computer lab, and Park City Community Education for a rock-specific performance program. Early next year, MusicGarage will open a rehearsal space/venue/recording facility in Bountiful. Auerbach is stoked. “If I had a day job, I’d volunteer to do this work because it is fun and important work.”