While stopping at an art store in Over-The-Rhine, local artist Karen D’Agostino noticed that the streets were full of kids hanging out, appearing as they had no agenda beyond loitering. She discussed with friends and family that there was a real need for after-school programs for inner-city kids. “If kids don’t have something fun to do that would keep them busy, they’re likely to get into trouble.” She remembered that a few years earlier in 2003, Dave Matthews Band had done a charity concert in Central Park and donated some of the money raised to an organization in their hometown of Charlottesville, VA. She did some research and learned of the Music Resource Center (founded 1995). Karen contacted the Executive Director, Sibley Johns, and discussed their program. Soon after, she would visit their center, and instantly fell in love with their program and its effects in the surrounding community. Teens from around the city could record and produce their own music, take lessons in an instrument of their choice, and perform their music for a nominal membership fee. The offerings at MRC were at once an answer to the issues affecting Cincinnati’s adolescents and an accessible activity that would speak immediately to just about any teen. Karen decided Cincinnati needed an MRC. After further talks with Sibley and Fritz Berry, Board President, it was decided that Cincinnati would be MRC’s first “sister” organization – using their name, philosophy and programs.
In 2007 the Music Resource Center – Cincinnati was officially created and earned its 501(c)3 status. The first year was spent conducting focus groups with teens, establishing connections with local non-profits, educators and funders. The feedback generated from the over 200 local teens surveyed indicated both the need and excitement for MRC’s programming. While a permanent facility was still underway, MRC began conducting outreach programming to local schools and recreation centers.
Pilot Outreach Programming
The first outreach endeavors were funded by grants from the Fine Arts Fund (now Artswave), The Mayerson Foundation and The Duke Energy Foundation in 2008. Mac computers and recording equipment were purchased to offer workshops that would enable teens to make their own recorded music to keep on CD. With the support of the staff from MRC-C’ville, Karen conducted four trial “Into to Digital Recording” outreach programs at local schools. Students, teachers, and administrators all thought this program was successful, and it would continue under the direction of newly hired Program Manager Josh Elstro, a Electronic Media graduate from CCM.
After extensive research and reviewing many potential sites, MRC’s studios found their home in East Walnut Hills, also at the border of the Evanston & Walnut Hills communities. Not only is the studio centrally located in the city of Cincinnati, it is situated conveniently near multiple schools, bus lines, at the intersection of a handful of neighborhoods.
A committee of 22 members worked to raise over $24,000 at our “Party Like a Rock Star!!” fundraiser, held at The 20th Century Theater in Oakley. The success of this event enabled MRC-Cinci to sign a lease on 3341 sq. ft. of space at 3032 Woodburn Avenue, in East Walnut Hills in early 2009. Renovations started in the spring and were completed by the end of summer. On August 7th, MRC-Cinci had their Grand Opening Celebration followed a week later by a Community Open House. Our studios have been full of local teens creating their own music and learning how to play a variety of instruments. Our first six months alone saw over 100 unique teens visit MRC more than 1,000 times!
History of the original MRC located in Charlottesville, VA
In 1992, John Hornsby and other Charlottesville, VA area musicians began exploring the idea of creating a community organization where middle- and high-school students could engage in music-making opportunities each day after school. This exploration was driven by the strong belief of MRC’s founders that fewer students would get into trouble after school if there were productive, high interest activities (such as music) in which to engage. In 1993, Mr. Hornsby began conducting focus groups among local school students to see if the idea of a local teen center would appeal to students and if they would help make the organization successful. The response from students was overwhelming. 92% of the 400 students surveyed indicated that they wanted the facility set up and on average, the students indicated they would use the facility two or three times a week.
On June 17, 1995, the Music Resource Center—C’Ville opened their doors to the streams of students that began attending daily. Local musicians donated instruments, equipment, and time to volunteer and mentor the students. The first CD of music produced at the Center was released in 1995. Entitled “Urban Phlavors,” it featured original music of MRC students, with audio engineering contributions from members as well.
MRC-C’Ville’s original home was a recording studio of the Dave Matthews Band. When the Band began widespread national tours in 1994-1995, they vacated the space to allow for the start-up of MRC, donating equipment, instruments and an outfitted recording studio. The Band members, all of whom are on MRC’s Advisory Board, continue to support the Center and periodically visit the students. Entertainment Weekly featured a cover story of the Band visiting the Center in 2005, and the Band talked about their role in supporting MRC on the Today Show in 2004. That same year, the Music Resource Center moved into their permanent home: a historical church-turned modern recording studio complex. Their new facility offers a main recording studio, five project rooms, two rehearsal rooms, and a dance room. The old sanctuary of the former church serves as a venue for talent shows, “battle of the bands” competitions and other events such as the Annual CD Release party.