The Music Resource Center Is Tuned into Teenagers

After 15 years, the nonprofit continues to inspire young people to follow their passion and their dreams.

The Music Resource Center, a nonprofit affiliated with the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati, provides life skills along with lessons in performing and recording that help empower teens who want to dive deeper into their passion. Operations Director Kyle Cadenza coordinates many of the activities, which engaged more than 400 kids last year at its state-of-the-art facility in Evanston and through school outreach programs. MRC sponsors sampler programs throughout the year to showcase student talent—the next is September 23.

What is it about music that can reach kids who might struggle in school or at home?

Music has the ability to change lives. It’s the escape, it’s cathartic, it’s the release of emotions that can be difficult to express verbally. Music also brings together people from different backgrounds. We’ve watched countless kids show up at MRC for the first time, nervous and unsure of themselves, and in time they often start writing their own songs, playing an instrument, or performing in public.

MRC was founded in 2007 by Karen D’Agostino and began offering workshops in 2008. How has it grown in terms of programs, clients, staff, and volunteer instructors?

Karen and the MRC team did an outstanding job partnering with different organizations, doing outreach at schools, and working with teens from all over Cincinnati, but especially around Evanston. When I started in 2017, the staff helped students not only with music and production, but also with school, at home, or in their personal life. It’s grown from there. We’ve collaborated with the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, Cincinnati Opera, WordPlay Cincy, and the Cincinnati Ballet, among others. We’ve also expanded outreach to multiple schools during the academic year and summer enrichment programming.

What do sampler nights provide for performers and the audience?

These are special events for members to perform on stage for their family, friends, and the community. Samplers give those kids who might have arrived at MRC shy and unsure of themselves the opportunity to showcase a new confidence in their talents, gain experience of performing on stage, and offer family and friends insight into the work they’ve done.

One of the young men featured in the March sampler will attend CCM this fall. How does something like that impact MRC?

It’s one of the reasons we love what we do. We want to help guide our members in the many facets of music production, but in life as well. The staff and volunteers develop a great friendship with students during their time at MRC. To see students accepted into their college of choice for a career they feel passionate about is rewarding for everyone.

The Cincinnati Opera commissioned Fierce, a production that looks at girls preparing to write a college application essay. Author Sheila Williams, who wrote the libretto, met with teens from MRC and WordPlay for her source material. Has the publicity raised MRC’s profile?

I’m not sure how to quantify it all, but it’s truly an honor and a privilege to have helped Sheila Williams and [composer] William Menefield make Fierce happen. To work with the Cincinnati Opera, WordPlay, and i.imagine [a Northern Kentucky visual arts organization] helps bring wonderful opportunities to the students of each organization. It was massive team effort, and I’m so proud of the end result. The music is amazing, and the words really hit home for a lot of people.

You have heavy hitters among your volunteers and board members, including John Curley of the Afghan Whigs (the band plays Bogart’s on September 11). Do the kids know they’re working with bona fide rock stars?

The instructors and board members help make MRC what it is today. I can’t say enough about John, who shares his guidance and experience not only with the students but also with me. I don’t think the students understand his history unless they Google him. What they know is his skill with music production, setting up the venue or multi-track space, mixing songs, or just jamming on bass with an MRC member band. And I’m not sure students realize the accomplishments of the staff and other volunteers, each of whom bring special talent and knowledge to the table. The mission is to help students take steady steps forward to follow their passion and dreams.

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