Gainesville Locals Win $15,000 To Start Music Education Program

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Gainesville band Flat Land performs during One Spark to raise funds to start a music education program. One Spark took place in downtown Jacksonville April 7-12.
Gainesville band Flat Land performs during One Spark to raise funds to start a music education program. One Spark took place in downtown Jacksonville April 7 through 12. Photo courtesy of Tyler Pierce Hale.

A group of 10 Gainesville musicians and marketers joined the world’s largest crowdfunding festival to raise funds for a music education project in Jacksonville earlier this month.

The festival, called One Spark, let artists, innovators and entrepreneurs showcase projects to raise funds and make connections. The local group raised money for Future Music Makers Youth Enrichment Program, the goal of which is to create music classes in established after-school programs to help kids learn how to create original modern music.

Out of 80 groups competing in the music category, the Future Music Makers Youth Enrichment Program project won a $15,000-prize.

The program is a collaborative effort between Gainesville-based band Flat Land, electronic duo Bells and Robes and Phairground, a local marketing and special events consulting firm.

Instead of raising money for an album, like some bands at One Spark, the group decided to focus on a music education project to benefit youth.

“We realized quickly that we could do something like this, and it would be great for the community and a great opportunity for us to do more music in our lives,” said Grant McLeod, Flat Land’s drummer.

The group might run some test programs in Alachua County but plans on starting classes in Duval County in fall 2015. McLeod said they want to return the investment they received from the Jacksonville community.

Dean Spaniol, a member of Bells and Robes, said the project comes at a time when funding for music education is being cut. He said the band members first picked up their instruments in music classes.

“To realize that these kids might not ever get that chance to pick up that instrument and to start creating and just to have the opportunity to express yourself through music is, for us, it’s scary,” he said. “We don’t know where we’d be without it.”

The classes would be taught once a week by the musicians. Both Bells and Robes and Flat Land create original sounds that stray from mainstream music heard on the radio. The classes are designed to help kids find their own sound and create original music.

The curriculum includes five classes made for elementary, middle and high school students: Group Rhythm and Percussion, Melody and Improvisation for Beginners, Intermediate Melody and Improvisation, Intro to Beat Making MIDI for Beginners and Advanced Production.

The group plans on using GarageBand on iPads to get students to create together.

Before One Spark, the project did not have any funding. The group is still deciding how they will spend the $15,000, but they said it’s good leverage for getting donations and connections. They have a business plan and are currently developing a strategy to get the project going.

Spaniol said they’ve received a positive response from educators and are now trying to form formal partnerships. They are targeting after-school programs that help prevent students from dropping out.

“It’s definitely very exciting, but it’s also a huge responsibility, and we take that very seriously,” said Fae Nageon de Lestang, Flat Land violinist and vocalist.

Tyler Pierce Hale works at Phairground and helped come up with the program idea. He said a big goal of the program is to allow students to have fun and express themselves.

“The biggest thing going in there is we’re teaching these kids how to communicate with each other, to put them all in a room and give them a common interest between everybody and actually let them enjoy their time,” Hale said. “Who knows the bonds or friends that they could make out of this group?”

The bands played a total of 15 sets at One Spark to get the word out about their project, but they credit their win to the bike stage.

Flat Land band performs on a stage being pulled by a bicycle in downtown Jacksonville during One Spark. The group used the moving performance to get attention and votes on their music education project.
Flat Land band performs on a stage being pulled by a bicycle in downtown Jacksonville during One Spark. The group used the moving performance to get attention and votes on their music education project. Photo courtesy of Tyler Pierce Hale.

Meredith O’Malley Johnson, the community and public relations director for One Spark, saw the group part a sea of festival-goers while performing on their 8-foot-by-8-foot trailer stage pulled by a bicycle.

“I’m not surprised they won because they were really great at performing and had really creative marketing,” she said. “People were paying attention to them.”

Hale said the program’s name comes from a line in the Arthur O’Shaughnessy poem mentioned in “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory”: “We are the music-makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.”

Hale said the award will allow them to live and breathe the message.

“It’s interesting how it’s evolved because we are the future music-makers and the dreamers of dreams,” he said.

About Chloe Stradinger

Chloe is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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