Musical instrument drive supports young players

UP AND STRUMMING: Infinite Vortex, a youth band that formed during Experience Music's inaugural course, will perform during the organization's gear-raising event. Photo courtesy of the band

Admit it: You’ve dreamed of being in a band. For dozens of local elementary school students, that fantasy will become a reality thanks to a new music education organization. Experience Music founder Chuck Lee is hosting a “gear-raiser” to stock up on instruments and other equipment, which his band camp students will then use during a 10-week course on sonic creativity and collaboration.

“We’re really aiming the programs at beginners,” Lee says of the after-school program. “If they’ve never played music, that’s great. We want those types of kids.”

Founded in March 2015, Lee’s lessons alternate between private sessions alongside professionals (like mentoring artists from Phuncle Sam and Hustle Souls) and collaborative jams with other novices.

“Our goal, ultimately, is to get these kids playing together,” Lee explains. “Also, we’re really focusing on the creative aspect, so the kids that come through here, we want them to create original music.”

Although the for-profit organization’s programming is not free, Lee says it’s extremely affordable. To keep costs low, he’s reaching out to the community for spare instruments and financial support. He’ll share donations with Girls Rock Asheville (a similar institution empowering young females to hop on stage), based on the number of students enrolled in each program. In total, the studio can handle about 30 kids per cycle.

During the gear-raiser, supporters can tour Lee’s Merrimon Avenue studio and enjoy refreshments, including pizza donated by Del Vecchio’s. Infinite Vortex — a youth band founded through Experience Music — will perform along with an act from Girls Rock Asheville’s program and members of Hustle Souls and Phuncle Sam.

Lee’s hope is that the influx of instruments will assuage parents who are wary of investing in a potentially fleeting hobby, while also allowing students to experiment with various pieces of equipment. Donations of any kind are welcome, he says, as the curious scholars aren’t choosy.

“It’s not like we have a $10,000 Gibson Les Paul on the wall,” he says. “We have used, beat up instruments — but that’s fine.”

Experience Music’s gear-raiser is at 339 Merrimon Ave. (parking available at Merrimon Avenue Baptist Church) on Saturday, Aug. 22, from 1-4 p.m. For more information or to make a donation on a different date, visit


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About Kat McReynolds
Kat studied entrepreneurship and music business at the University of Miami and earned her MBA at Appalachian State University. Follow me @katmAVL

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