Most gigging musicians don't have to call their parents for a ride home after a performance, or make sure they're packed-up and out of a bar promptly before 9 p.m. The exception to the rule comes in the form of the Uptown Music Collective's own "mini-Motown" group, The Urban Souls Tribute to Motown. Despite members' ranging in age from 8 to 15, these students undoubtedly boast a very grown-up sound.
"I love learning songs that were in the past and bringing them to life," said Urban Souls drummer and, at 15, oldest member, Kendall Palmatier. "To see people's faces when we play is priceless; they're bewildered at the fact that we are young musicians that play as well as we do."
Alexis Carnivale, David Chubirka, Isabelle Brumbaugh, Cade Palmatier, Kendall Palmatier, Arianna Pamphile, Gabriel Severn and Erin Witter fill the group out with vocals, two guitars, keyboard, bass, and drums.
The Uptown Music Collective’s Urban Souls Tribute to Motown group is seen. The group features UMC?students randing in age from 8 to 15. For more information about UMC, visit uptownmusic.org.
"Student participants were recommended by their teachers or chosen for their outstanding performance in the Collective's student recitals and-or major performance program. All students were asked to give us a year's commitment to the group," Uptown Music Collective's founder and Executive Director Dave Brumbaugh, said.
Offering students of all ages lessons in bass, drums, guitars, piano and keyboard, and vocals, classes in music theory, ear training, and music business, (to name a few) and performance groups like The Urban Souls where they can put it all to good use, it's no wonder why the Uptown Music Collective has become both an integral and ubiquitous part of the area's music education and performance scenes.
"For the past few years the number of businesses and individuals calling the Uptown Music Collective seeking groups to perform at their events has continued to increase," Brumbaugh said. "These performances give our students invaluable experience and the revenue received through them helps the school with administrative and program expenses."
And the students are enjoying the process.
"I love being a part of the Collective because it's like having a whole other family and I really like learning the older songs," 11-year-old vocalist Alexis Carnivale said. "The best part is that everything you hear is us; nothing is pre-recorded-you just hear our instruments and our voices."
Gabriel Severn, 8-year-old bassist and son of Lock Haven professor and jazz trumpeter Eddie Severn, added "I like that we get to play gigs, being little kids. I like rehearsing with each other and I also like that we're learning 'I Wish' [by Stevie Wonder]."
The focus with the Motown group was put on involving younger students from the beginning, Brumbaugh said. The school aims to offer students to "experience in different styles [of music] and with different groups of students, so with a few exceptions we envision changing the groups around for the 2013-2014 school year," he said.
One of those exceptions could be the Collective's Blues Performance Workshop, which, Brumbaugh said, may be "groomed to take part in 2014's International Blues Challenge."
What's more, most of the Collective's performance workshops are student-run, although Brumbaugh rehearses and directs The Urban Souls Tribute to Motown due to their age. Also behind-the-scenes is Will Ort, a guitar instructor and the technical director for the Uptown Music Collective, who oversees the booking and production for the school's performance workshops and accompanies the students to the majority of their performances.
Brumbaugh and his staff show no sign of slowing. The Collective will host its Winter-Spring Semester Open House on Jan. 5 and will enroll both new and returning students over the weeks that follow. All the while, teachers and students are preparing for two major performances: a Feb. 1 benefit concert at the Community Arts Center called "Hunger Strike," a fundraiser for the local Meals on Wheels organization, and Feb. 21 and 22 concerts at the Community Theater League called "UMC Unplugged." Brumbaugh explained the inspiration for the music behind the shows:
"Hunger Strike" will feature the music of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden with a sprinkling of music from female artists of the early 1990s. The UMC Unplugged performance is a tribute to MTV's long running show MTV Unplugged and will feature the music of artists like Eric Clapton, Page and Plant, Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys, Elton John and more. For more information about The Uptown Music Collective and The Urban Souls Motown Tribute, visit www.uptownmusic.org/urban souls.