A Gallery Night Showcase For Young Musicians
Young musicians are being given a platform to perform, show off their talent and get experience performing in front of crowds as part of the Youth Music Project. Once a month, on Gallery Night in downtown Pensacola, the project sets up a stage for performers to show what they’ve got. “We have been doing the stage for five years” said Chris Klotz, a partner in the Pensacola law firm Stevenson Klotz.
Klotz says the stage has moved around over those five years, beginning outside an office they shared space with attorney Autumn Beck on the corner of Palafox and Intendencia. “When we moved out of that office it wasn’t really convenient to set up there. We actually grew a bit, so we bought a larger size stage and now we’ve been setting up in front of Seville Tower, across from Ferdinand Plaza for about three years.”
When Klotz and his partner Eric Stevenson formed their law firm five years ago, they wanted to do something special that gave back to the community. “Eric and I have both been in bands, probably since college, or high school for him. And we both play music, we’re in a band now. And we wanted to come up with an idea that would be a good philanthropy that we were both kind of invested in personally. And so the Youth Music Project was something that we came up with as an idea of a way to give back to the community.”
The stage gives young people an opportunity to come out and play for free in a safe environment. A sound engineer and a light show are included. Klotz says the stage is active the entire night. “We have music starting at around 6 p.m. and it goes sometimes until 9 or 10. And we’ll have anywhere between three and five acts."
To get involed and perform on stage, people can contact the Stevenson Klotz law office ask for a time slot on a particular Gallery Night. "We have some young people who only have a couple of songs in their repertoire. And so they’ll come and play a couple of songs and then they’ll move on to the next person.”
Over the years the stage has hosted everything from a guy with a guitar to full bands, many of which have gone on to be regulars playing in the area. “We have had some really amazing full bands that have started out on the youth music project stage. Classic June, Soul Station, Juice is Okay, all those youngsters, I say youngsters they are in high school now and a lot of them have gone on to college, started out on our stage. And they are 4, 5, 6 piece bands. They are absolutely amazing musicians. And what’s been so much fun for us is to watch young people grow in their music skills and especially in their public performance skills."
"Part of what we’re trying to accomplish is give young people a platform to come and play in public" said Klotz, " because I can remember when I was a kid in high school we’d go play in somebody’s garage or somebody might have a rental storage facility where we’d keep a drum kit and we’d go play there. But we never really had many opportunities to go play in public, in front of a crowd and really work on showmanship and presentation. So it’s been an awesome experience.” If you attend Gallery night this week you’ll see the stage set up on the corner of Palafox and Government Street, right by Seville Tower.
In addition to the stage, The Youth Music Project offers young musicians a chance to get a little help with their education. “Our scholarship program, part of the Youth Music Project, consists of, about three times a year we’ll do a song writing contest and then a song production contest where we have people submit applications with their original music. It can be vocal or instrumental. And then we usually have a committee of people come in and listen to the songs presented and then make an award based on their song entries.” So far there have been about a half dozen scholarships awarded of the five years of the project.
As far as getting scheduled to play on Gallery Night, Chris Klotz says there are times when the stage is booked several months in advance but it does slow down in the colder months. And although he and his partner Eric Stevenson are in a band, they never take the stage on Gallery Night. He says that’s reserved for the kids.