Upon arrival at the Uptown Music Collective school, 848 W. Fourth St., the house is bustling with activity. Hallways and rooms are full of kids fiddling with their instruments and chatting with one another, while behind a closed door, John Mellancamp's '80s populist anthem "Pink Houses" is being rehearsed.
Soon, the door opens and in that rehearsal room, a group of kids stand behind microphones with their instruments as UMC Executive Director Dave Brumbaugh guides a pre-teen guitarist into getting the song's riff just right. This group - and the others assembled this past Sunday afternoon - were working on a song for the upcoming concert, "The Purple Heart Project: A Fundraising Concert for Wounded Warriors," which will be held at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11 at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St.
Each year, the UMC does a charity show and this year, they chose the Wounded Warrior Project after Brumbaugh was approached by Colin Lakatos about doing something for the veterans.
Uptown Music Collective will perform “The Purple Heart Project: A Fundraising Concert for Wounded Warriors,” which will be held at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11 at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St.
"I asked Dave if this year's UMC yearly benefit could be directed to the Wounded Warrior Project because they are a really good cause and I think it's an admirable thing to do," Lakatos said. "I went on the Wounded Warrior website and started looking around. I found out one of their big things are people doing events - like this one - which really connect people on an individual level. These are not large corporate events that people are donating huge chunks of money, just local people coming together to support the veterans."
"We've done benefits before in the past for Haiti and the Children's Development Center," Brumbaugh said. "So, Colin asked me if I would do something for Wounded Warriors. After talking to the students, we decided that it would be our benefit concert. It's something near and dear to my heart as well, so it was easy to get behind."
Over the past decade, UMC has developed a reputation as the premier source of music education in the area, with a current enrollment of more than 125 students. These students are immersed in a wonderworld of classes and workshops in diverse areas such as music theory and songwriting, as well as learning the playing styles of blues, jazz, classical and rock. The ultimate goal of all the training and hours of practice is taking the stage at an UMC show.
"This is my sixth year," said Gabe Stillman, a senior at UMC. "I was 11 when I started. In that time, I've been in nine major productions. This benefit show is really cool because we're doing a lot of songs I really like playing. I'm performing 'Freedom' by Richie Havens with the band. It's the Woodstock version of the song, which is a legendary sort of performance. We're also doing a song called 'Both Sides of the Gun' by Ben Harper. The show has this theme because we're trying to raise money to aid wounded veterans who can't get the health care they need and to in general help them out."
"I've been with the Collective for about five years now and play the guitar as well as the saxophone," said fellow UMC senior Nuria Hunter. "During that time, I've been in 10 to 12 major productions. Benefit shows are great. We want to raise as much money as possible. It's an added pressure, but worth it. You want the audience to enjoy the show but the most important thing is raising money for the Wounded Warriors project. I'm playing guitar on one song that combines Woody Guthrie's 'This Land Is Your Land' and an Akron Family Song called 'Woody Guthrie's America.' Also, I'm really excited to sing 'American Tune' by Paul Simon."
The passion in which these young performers dedicate themselves to music is displayed while watching them prepare for next week's show.
A spirited performance of Billy Joel's "Goodnight Saigon" served as the soundtrack to activities ranging from Brumbaugh leading a group meeting, to a young girl going over keyboard parts for a song she is performing.
It's been a hectic schedule for these students leading up to next week's show. Although you can tell when talking to the students or seeing them perform that it's well worth all the hard work and dedication.
"We're already working on our April show," Brumbaugh said. "The kids started rehearsing the Wounded Warrior benefit three weeks ago. They also had two shows prior to that. We were practicing those simultaneously because they're only two weeks apart. First came '42nd and Broadway' at the end of December. Then we did the orchestral rock project two weeks later at the CAC and we're doing this show after coming back from Memphis. A group of students and teachers leave Wednesday night for a trip to the Memphis International Blues Challenge Youth Showcase. We are excited to represent the Billtown Blues Association at that event."
The show will feature more than 40 students performing rock songs with a patriotic or related message, from artists such as Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, James Brown, Richie Havens, Crosby Stills Nash and Young and more. There also will be a raffle and other fundraising events during the course of the evening with all proceeds going directly to The Wounded Warrior Project.
Tickets for the performance are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Tickets are available at The Uptown Music Collective and The Community Arts Center Box Office, as well as Alabaster Coffee, 410 Pine St., and K&S Music 1116 W. Southern Ave., South Williamsport.