School curriculums typically offer classical, jazz and musical theater, but for kids interested in other genres (pop, rock, blues, country, etc) there is little guidance and few performing opportunities. In addition, city kids have scant access to basements or garages, to explore making music in groups. Urban Garage was created to fill this void.
Singer/songwriter Liz Queler has years of experience teaching guitar, voice and songwriting. A native New Yorker, she envisioned a cool space where teens could connect over a shared passion, and have the opportunity to work with and learn from top New York pros. She launched Urban Garage in March 2016, and recruited her husband, pianist and conductor Seth Farber, along with a rotating group of guest mentors. With some seed money from a private sponsor, they started inviting musical teens to participate in what can best be described as a playing and performance lab. The home base is The West End Lounge on 107th St. & West End Ave (NYC), which provides a lit stage and backline (piano, drums, amps and a PA). The evenings are open for participation to any teen, and anyone can attend as an audience member. There is no required attendance, so each event is unique, improvised and directed according to who shows up and their particular skill set. There is no cover, and a $15 minimum (food menu available).
The evening starts with an open mic for kids to bring in prepared songs. Constructive feedback regarding performance, songwriting or technique is offered when appropriate. During the second hour, charts are handed out, and Liz mixes and matches kids on various instruments and vocal parts and guides them through the experience of performing as a group. “We may stop to work on a vocal arrangement or a particular section of a song, or not. It all happens in the moment.” The kids learn mic technique, soloing skills, chart reading, and most importantly, listening and responding to each other in a musical setting.
Great attendance and overwhelming enthusiasm leaves little question that Urban Garage is filling a need in the musical experience of teens, and in our community.
Urban Garage is made possible in part with public funds from Creative Engagement supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and Billboard Magazine.