By Leslie D. Rose
For area musician Doug Gay, part of his dream began when he became the band director at The Dunham School. Other parts began taking shape in 2006 when he founded Baton Rouge Music Studios (BRMS), but the full dream of someday owning and operating a community space centered on music was still nine years away.
On Saturday, Feb. 7 all of Baton Rouge is invited to see Gay’s dream come to life with the grand opening of BRMS’s new multifunctional facility located in the Burbank Crossing shopping center.
BRMS works mostly with youth musicians, offering a few adult options. Gay’s current roster has approximately 225 students, with the youngest being just 5 years old.
“It’s all to provide a structured education to kids with the option of playing what they want to play,” Gay said of his mission. “We teach the elements of music theory, but they get to be onstage and play a Nirvana or Katy Perry song – it’s the best of both worlds.”
Balancing those two worlds is something Gay has worked hard for since he was a teenaged musician looking for rehearsal space. It is that which led him to pursue teaching and what later landed him the job at The Dunham School, and also what caused him to leave that job so he could gain on-the-road experience with acclaimed blues guitarist and singer Tab Benoit.
While he admits it was no easy decision leaving his students, passing the Dunham band program to the capable hands of fellow musician and friend John Gray — whom he later nominated for Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra’s Teacher of the Year — was just what Gay needed to proceed full steam ahead. From there, Gay operated BRMS in several spaces in the Hillary Court office park throughout the years.
But all along Gay never forgot his dream.
And in May 2014 the community space idea seemed it would finally come into fruition, when Carolyn Ray, BRMS’s operations manager and Gay’s former student, posted an online crowd sourcing campaign that would land the studios $51,000 in just four weeks.
“It was a whirlwind,” Ray said. “This is a place where kids can be the misfits and not worry about being bullied or anything like that. I don’t think there’s any other place around here like that, centered on music.”
Along with the new space, a new logo and tag was created boasting that BRMS is “more than music.”
Ray, who is also a vocalist, said she understands firsthand why the new tagline is such an important component to music education.
“I was learning a lot in school, but I was lacking the resources to show me how to use my education,” Ray said. “We’re not only providing education to the kids, but teaching them how to do it themselves. The goals are for them to be able to book a gig, how to act when they get there and set up their stuff – we’re trying to raise the next generation of musicians.”
2015 will have the BRMS students playing for their fourth year at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and third year at the Baton Rouge Blues Festival. The students also recently performed in a youth showcase at The International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn. – their first out-of-state gig.
So with everything they’re doing, the studio’s grand opening is a three-fold hurrah to show off the new digs, showcase student talents, and thank the community for its help in nabbing the space for BRMS.
The upcoming celebration will combine seasoned artists along with BRMS student bands, featuring performances by Quiana Lynell, Slomile Swift, The AhHa’s, Saturday’s Lantern Convention, Cosmic Background Radiation, Red Panda, Five Horned Hog, Salt in Pepper, and Southern Crossing – Toast.
Taco De Paco and Cupcake Allie food trucks will dish out dinner along with free beverages. BRMS will also offer a special 10% discount off the first month of lessons for new students who sign up that day.
The discount comes by way of experience, as the last time BRMS hosted a like event, the studio gained 20 new students.
“I see us being mostly centered on music, but also being a place that is an all-purpose gathering,” Gay said.
Branding itself as a place to receive music lessons, instruction, guest facilitations, and production, the new facility also offers housing for standard five-subject tutoring and will function as a concert venue with seating for over 100 and a small bar area, as well as providing lighting and sound.
One of the first events in the concert space will be the Eclectic Truth’s grand slam finals to select the 2015 Baton Rouge National Poetry Slam team on Feb. 24, who will go on to compete in Oakland, Calif. this summer.