Earlier this year, Ian Levin, manager of the ReImagine Mack Road Foundation’s community center, guided the conversion of the facility’s two-car garage into a new dance/music studio for at-risk south Sacramento youngsters.
The room is inviting, featuring cushioned black flooring, a mirrored wall and brightly painted cabinets. Levin has high hopes for the studio. He wants to stock it with musical instruments of all shapes, so he and his volunteer instructors can help youths age 8 to 18 take music lessons.
Some use the room for musical instruction, but there aren’t many instruments from which to choose: four loaned guitars, some drums made from upside-down five-gallon buckets, a recorder, a tired trumpet and a small three-piece drum set.
With help from Book of Dreams readers, he knows he can make the music dream come true for hundreds.
The center is in the former parsonage next door to St. Andrews Lutheran Church on Center Parkway. The studio is the center’s latest improvement, which was funded and installed with help from the Rebuilding Together nonprofit housing organization.
Music fits in with the center’s mission – to open minds to creative expression, teach a skill, boost self-confidence, and inspire collaboration and teamwork.
Music instruction and all other center programs – from dance class and chess club, to its homework lab and tutoring help that has helped upward of 400 students this year – provide positive activities. Many young people come for the outdoor basketball courts, soccer fields, or even the bike maintenance shop, but they find their way to the indoor activities.
“I‘m hoping for the full array of instruments,” said Levin, “so any student who wants to learn has a no-cost opportunity; and any student who has demonstrated a true passion for music can earn the privilege of taking an instrument home to practice.”
Levin’s wish list includes $5,000 in funds and/or donations of new or gently used keyboards, a piano, more trumpets, flutes, saxophones, violins, cellos and percussion instruments. He is seeking a beat machine and performance accessories, such as microphones and stands, amplifiers, speakers and cords.
Jason Vue, 12, and his friend Isiah Miller, also 12, come to learn how to play the bucket drum and the recorder. Miller said formal instruction isn’t always easy.
“It is a challenge but it is a lot more fun than playing video games.”
With the studio in place, the instruments are the final piece to Levin’s plan. He has already lined up potential volunteer instructors through contacts at BTU Arts, which runs after-school music instruction programs.
Without donations, he said he can’t move much further on the music program. The center operates on a shoestring budget, with virtually everything in the center donated.
“We dream big over here,” he said. “I know if we can build it, they will come.”