As Baton Rouge Music Studios rolls into another year, the local educational venue is looking north for ideas on expanding.
BRMS director of programs and owner Doug Gay said the musical academy is partnering with the Real School of Music in Massachusetts.
Taking a cue from the Real School of Music’s model, Gay is applying for funding to better serve students with special needs, including those with learning disabilities or from lower income households.
“We’re not jumping forward or backward, but growing outward to include more people,” Gay said.
The Massachusetts academy was an inspiration to Gay and BRMS before becoming a partner.
“They are taking what I love doing to the next level — creating a school of contemporary music, a school of dream-building, a safe haven and place of creativity that kids can come to that is like nothing else in town,” said Gay. “I want to be the guy in Baton Rouge who brought it here. We are ready, and I think the city will be thoroughly impressed.”
The step is a big one for BRMS, which keeps growing. Just last year, the studios relocated to a 4,000-square-foot facility at 9327 Burbank Drive.
Within the space, there is now room for more private lessons, a full recording studio and a venue space that regularly hosts all ages concerts.
The focus at BRMS this year has been on the new group performance program.
Originally named The Blues Project, the performance class was a band comprised of studentswho wanted to play together taking private lessons, with Gay on the drums.
The program has evolved into a three-tiered program for teaching everything from the basics to professional music skills and savvy.
“Rock Lab is the beginner’s course,” said Nick Garrison, director of the Advanced Industry Training Program at BRMS.
Usually for children under 12, each student learns a set of songs during private lessons. Students then practice as a group and perform a three-song set as a band at the end of the semester.
The program then moves to Young Band Nation, which is for intermediate students who have the basics down. Student bands meet weekly to practice and perform under the direction of a coach.
This is the first taste students get of professional gigging, with sets at local fairs and festivals, including the Baton Rouge Blues Festival and FestForAll.
The last stop on the program is the Advanced Industry Training Program, which is designed to teach the skills necessary to work in the professional realm to teen musicians.
Students commit to a year with their band, learning extensive set lists and performing regularly throughout southeastern Louisiana. At that same time, students are guided in music business classes as they curate an online presence and reach out to talent buyers to book their own shows.
“We don’t have the mindset to push kids to be professional musicians, but we want that to be the mentality while learning,” Garrison said. “It’s about attitude, commitment, and the love of learning.”
As far as its educators are concerned, the principles behind BRMS are simple.
“I wasn’t so much into sports, so being in the school band gave me a team sports mentality,” said Gay. “I loved the structure it provided, the sense of accountability.”
For Gay, music is equal parts structure and social outlet — something he wants to provide BRMS students.
“We have kids who go to school and get bullied, and we have kids who are superstars at school, and we have the opportunity to bridge the gap,” said Gay. “Kids can come here and find a community.”