The New Black was right under my nose the whole time – all I had to do was stop and take a look. Funny how that happens sometimes with the things in your community that really, truly matter.
I first heard about the New Black: Center for Music and Art, an all age music venue/recording studio, at the Alberta Recreation and Park Association’s (ARPA) youth symposium in January. The City of Calgary, Community & Neighbourhood Services, was there giving a presentation on their ‘Toast ‘n’ Jam’ program – an arts engagement initiative with a focus on teaching youth how to become professional musicians.
This symposium session caught my eye because of my role at as the Creative Cultural Liaison with ARPA’s ACE Communities. With my latest baby – the ACE ARTS Tour – soon to be on the road, it was increasingly apparent that music and youth was kinda becoming my thing. It was time, I thought to myself, to get some insight on the topic.
The focus of the City of Calgary’s talk was their transition to a more grassroots, community driven approach to the ‘Toast ‘n’ Jam’ program. Part of this transition was the city’s partnership with the New Black, a youth-friendly music venue in Inglewood. As I just happened to live in Inglewood and was now snuggly wearing my youth & music hat, I quickly put the New Black on my list of places to visit.
Flash forward four months and there I finally was, standing in the uber cool, yet still punk-flavoured New Black. Earlier that week, I had been jogging and stopped to tie my shoelace right in front of the venue’s slightly obscure front entrance. Ah ha, I thought! New Black now located – check one on the list accompli.
“It can be tough to find us,” says Darren Ollinger, one of the venue’s founder, “but that’s all part of the appeal to the kids who come here. It makes it like a destination just for them.”
Hunkered in a cluster of commercial buildings, with the Canadian Pacific Railway right in their back yard, the New Black is the perfect spot for music lovers of all ages to come and see live gigs, create music themselves, or simply hang out with their peers.
“The goal of the New Black,” continues Ollinger, whose day job is as the creative director of the X92.9 FM – Calgary’s alternative radio station, “is to provide a place where kids want to hang out and, just as important, a place where their parent’s feel they are safe to be.”
Oozing professionalism tapered with a grunge edge, the New Black offers its all aged clients a stage to practice their stuff (with a fully equipped music system and acoustic set-up) as well as a recording studio. Bring your own gear and rent the studio for $20/hr. Don’t have your own gear, then the New Black will provide it for a fee of $30/hr. These are rates that would make the average hockey parent turn green with envy.
Parents, of course, are always welcomed at the New Black and Ollinger himself has had chats with parents who have secretly come by to check up their kids.
“We tell parents that this is a place for kids to have a real life educational music experience. They can come here and either perform or just get a feeling for how it really feels to be a working musician,” says Ollinger. “This is what the kids said they wanted so we rose to the challenge and tried to provide it.”
The New Black is currently in the midst of becoming an incorporated non-profit society. Its existence comes from the fact that two guys, who loved music themselves, believed that every kid should have access to music. So fret not – even the non-jock, artsy-punks, wanna-be rockers, and music loving alternative kids can have a place of their own.
For more info on the New Black: http://www.thenewblackcentre.com/