Digital Creative Arts Centre at the Boys and Girls Club
Janis Wallace is a London-based freelance writer. The Londoner
Pick any genre of music you’d like.
Rock, hip hop, pop, or country – whatever your preference, chances are there’s an intergenerational debate raging about which musical era stands out as the greatest of all time. Battle lines are rigid; the Beatles or the Rolling Stones? Tupac or Biggie? Metallica or Megadeth? Consensus is impossible and compromises are out of the question.
The new Digital Creative Arts Centre at the Boys and Girls Club of London doesn’t have all the answers, but the new space is inviting youth, adults, and seniors to find common ground with a simple question:
What will you create today?
Equipped with a studio floor, master control and isolation rooms, a wall of editing stations, and an open flex space, the centre provides everything needed to nurture creativity and community.
“Here’s where the magic happens,” said Mario Circelli, the centre’s manager of program development. “It’s a multi-purpose space for recording, teaching and performance.”
Officially opened earlier this month thanks in part to support from Ellis Don, London Community Foundation, Digital Extremes, Libro, and Bollert Entertainment, the centre is a fully functioning recording studio, jam space, and music classroom.
Studio rentals – discounted for members but also available to the general public – come with a trained recording engineer, Circelli said. Youth-focused programs such as Beats N Rhymes have already brought in students during PA days, seminars will appeal to music fans across London, high school students will find leadership and co-op opportunities, and the centre also hosts a program for seniors with disabilities every Wednesday.
“The (centre) is an exciting new venture that will enhance current programming for our members and provides the club with an opportunity to offer cutting edge experiences and exposure to new opportunities that will promote music and the arts in London,” said Arden McClean, the Boys and Girls Club of London’s manager of program services.
“Think of it as a music creation incubator,” Circelli added. “There will be instruction for all levels, beginner to accomplished.”
The studio floor, a 22×15-foot carpeted area, can accommodate a band while it records, sending a signal into the master control. It can also serve as a teaching platform for topics such as microphone techniques. The flex space can seat 65 people for a seminar or hold a large group for recording. St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic secondary schools has booked recording time for its choir, for example.
Along one wall, editing stations are equipped with a digital audio workstation, Logic sequencer, and Garage Band software as well as iPads with music-related programs and games. On a recent PA day, participants in a hip-hop camp used the stations to learn how to create beats, write their own rhymes, merge them, and record a performance.
“I love this place,” said Presley Bollert, a Grade 6 student from Eagle Heights. “You can make a real rap song. It was fun.”
Bollert has been making music since he was five and plays several instruments, sings, and composes.
“I like drums best because I like to set the beat, set the tempo,” he said. “It’s amazing. Everybody can express their love for music and show other people how to make it.
“It’s a big area, all about music. Music is the thing I love – it’s half of my heart to me.”
Love of music brought Aine Pucchio, Juliana Kopp and Alissa Askerov together to form The Triad, a singer/songwriter group that performs acoustic indie music. At A.B. Lucas, the three were encouraged by their (recently retired) music teacher, Steven Holowitz. They performed at the launch of the centre Nov. 1 and were finalists in the 2019 Forest City London Music Awards Battle of the Bands.
“Music is such an important thing for kids growing up,” said Pucchio. “It’s great the Boys and Girls Club has added this space.”
“It’s a nice space to perform,” added Kopp. “It’s super chill and laid back.”
The group hopes to use the centre to record music in the future.
Circelli’s music program for seniors with disabilities connect the centre with Community Living London.
“We integrate it into the whole program here,” said Community Living London co-ordinator Miriam Barry. “He’s (Circelli) brought in guests to play different instruments, different genres, songs everyone knows. Right now, we’re doing Christmas songs. We may do pop-up carols in the community.”
Circelli said the music hub is phase one for the centre. His long-term vision is to integrate photography, graphic arts, and film.
“They are all digital and inter-related, he said, adding someone could use the centre to create a logo, a video, or a soundtrack.
A colourful graphic spread across the back wall asks the question at the heart of the centre, “What will you create today?”
It’s a good question,
and one the Boys & Girls Club encourages the community to come in and
discover an answer to.