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Teachers The ABCs of Music


The ABCs of Music

By Rege Behe
Every summer Liz Berlin steps down from the stage and into the classroom.
The Rusted Root vocalist, guitarist and percussionist and her fellow instructors guide aspiring musicians through every aspect of the music business via Real Life Music Camp. The students -- there's no age limit but attendees are predominately in their teens -- learn how to write songs, get performance tips, hone their instrumental chops and eventually collaborate for a show at Mr. Small's Theatre in Millvale.
"It's good to see young people with a passion for the arts seeking out the help that they need," says Berlin, who has
The Real Life Music Camp is a branch of Creative.Life.Support, the not-for-profit arm of the Mr. Small's complex that include a recording studio on Pittsburgh's North Side. The goal of CLS, according to its mission statement, is to bring "advanced technologies and opportunities in media arts to the hands of aspiring artists and creative professionals, both youth and adult." CLS also attempts to identify, retain and promote leaders to increase novel cultural developments in Western Pennsylvania.
But at the Real Life Music Camp, it's all about the bass -- and the guitars, drums, keyboards, and vocals. The immersive experience, spread over four days, also includes instructions on facets of the music business that are often overlooked, including how to book gigs and self-promotion.

At least one graduate of Real Life Music Camp has become a professional musician. Pittsburgh native Melanie Meriney, a promising singer and songwriter now based in Nashville, credits the band camp with providing a base for her career.
"I was not only introduced to some of my peer musicians around Pittsburgh but was given information and resources that could help make my career a success," says Meriney, who performed at the Three Rivers Regatta in 2014. "I still use marketing, recording, and performance techniques I learned in the camp."
Meriney was seeking to launch her career when she signed on to attend the camp, but other go just for the sheer pleasure of the experience. Berlin says that some students are extremely skilled, while other are novices.
"But it's not based on their skill level," Berlin says. "It's based on their passion and wanting to learn."
Scholarships are available. The Reeva Project (http://www.creativelifesupport.com), in memory of Berlin's niece who passed away from Crohn's disease five years ago, is available for students with that condition and colitis.
The Allegheny County Music Festival Fund (http://www.alleghenycounty.us/dhs/acmffabout.aspx) -- supported by a Rusted Root concert each year at Hartwood Acres -- pays for life-enriching opportunities children and youth receiving services through the Allegheny County Department of Human Services or the Juvenile Section of the Family Division of the Court of Common Pleas. Eligible youths can use this fund to pay for camp fees.
There also are a limited number of scholarships based on need.
This year's Real Life Music Camp will be held August 10-14 at Mr. Small's North Side recording studio and at Mr. Small's Theatre in Millvale. To register: http://www.creativelifesupport.com/

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