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High school students to rock Homegrown

Jake Vainio in the upper practice room of the Sacred Heart Music Center on April 22. He played in the Music Resource Center showcase last year and is glad to do it again. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)1 / 3
Ian Erickson practicing riffs on his bass guitar at the Music Resource Center. He is a member of a ska band called “The Potluck Communists.” (Photo by Teri Cadeau)2 / 3
Students in the MRC afterschool program had the opportunity to play in the Homegrown music festival last year. Last year they played at the Sacred Heart Music Center, but this year the show is moving to the Underground. (Submitted photo)3 / 3

Local high school students will perform their own original music as part of Duluth Homegrown Music Festival on Tuesday, April 29 at 6 p.m. at the Underground.

Homegrown collaborates with the Music Resource Center (MRC) to give the students their own showcase during the eight-day festival. Four bands and solo acts made up of 6th- through 12th-graders will perform hour-long slots.

“The Homegrown showcase gives the students a chance to connect with the Twin Ports music scene and with other artists. That’s what we’re all about is that mentor connection relationship,” said Emily Haavik, program manager of the Music Resource Center.

The Music Resource Center is a program of the Armory Arts & Music Center which provides educational after-school activities for Duluth teens. MRC is in session every Tuesday and Thursday from 4-6 p.m. at Sacred Heart Music Center, 201 W 4th St., Duluth. Erik Swanson, director of Sacred Heart Music Center and music instructor Darin Bergsven provide music education, recording time, mentoring and supervision to the students in the program. The MRC is free and open to kids in 6th through 12th grade who are enrolled in school.

Haavik said the center has had a busy and successful year, including monthly open mics at Amazing Grace, multiple public performances and benefits, and workshops with prominent local musicians.

“We want to give kids with a passion for music an avenue to advance their skills, compose, practice, record, learn,” Haavik said. “It’s also a place to go after school where they can hang out while developing their skills.”

Two students who “hang out” at the center often are 10th graders Jake Vainio and Ian Erickson. Last week the two could be found jamming on their guitars in the upper room practice area of Sacred Heart. They’re in a ska band together and say they like to practice at the MRC whenever they can.

“It’s something to do and it’s a great environment. And you hear all types of music and it’s really inspiring,” Vainio said.

“We definitely wouldn’t have the quality of recording if we didn’t come here,” Erickson said. “Plus at home there’s TV and other stuff to distract you, to say the least.”

Their band “The Potluck Communists” will perform in the showcase. Both say they’ll probably play their own acoustic material as well.

Erickson said what he likes best about the program is that it’s small and their band gets a lot of advice and help.

“Darrin has helped a lot with our ska band. He’s played pretty much everything so he just has a lot of advice. He’s a jack of all trades,” Erickson said.

The program also brings in experienced musicians to work with the students. Vainio said they’d heard from Low, Charlie Parr, The Keep Aways and Mary Bue. Last week Tuesday the students got to hear from Father Hennepin, the band which started the Homegrown festival.

“It’s a cool connection for the kids because they’re playing Homegrown,” Haavik said. “That’s what we’re all about is that mentor connection relationship.”

The students are also working on recording a 2014 Spring Sampler right now with Eric Swanson, director of Sacred Heart Music Center and technology instructor at MRC. That CD will be released at the end of the school year. Vainio and Erickson have already recorded their songs “Down a Peg” and “Tuesday” for the album.

“To be a teenager and musician and already be part of the music culture is a fantastic opportunity. I didn’t start playing Homegrown or recording until I was 18 or 19 and already in college,” Haavik said.

If you go

What: Music Resource Center Homegrown Showcase

Where: The Underground, 506 W. Michigan St.

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 29

Cost: $5 at the door

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

(218) 720-4176