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A Musical 'Traffic Jam' in Downtown Charlottesville

The Music Resource Center in Charlottesville is bringing the music outside… to the streets.  Students play for drivers stuck in traffic right in front of their building, hoping to get people interested in what’s going on inside.  It’s part of an all new concert series called ‘Traffic Jam.’  WMRA’S Brit Moorer reports.

The Music Resource Center in Charlottesville is just steps away from the city’s historic downtown mall, next door to a busy fire station, and a short distance from the University of Virginia, but for most people in the area, it just looks like a big old empty building.  

IKE ANDERSON: People drive by and see these huge church doors shut.

…And most likely don’t want to find out what lies behind them… so…

ANDERSON: I thought it’d be a great idea… hey, how are you? See we have fans.

Supporters of a hidden musical space helping kids express themselves.

ANDERSON: We provide all of the equipment and resources needed for our artists to create their own music. With that being said, if they wanted to record an album and never have, we sit down with them and talk about songwriting and give them lessons, doing everything we can to help them achieve the goals that they’re looking to achieve.

Ike Anderson grew up attending classes at the MRC and wants everyone to hear and see how music being made inside the building is changing lives.

ANDERSON: I was always a fan of music and music played a big deal in my household. I wasn’t really a musician but I grew up listening to Barry White, Isaac Hayes, Michael Jackson and one day I found out about Music Resource Center and I joined and that was it.

Anderson is now the membership coordinator for the non-profit center, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. One day he thought to himself, why not bring the music outside of the huge church doors and play for drivers navigating around Avon Street, one of Charlottesville’s busiest.

JUDE: I was a very bad average guitarist and now I’m way better than most people.

Jude, a 7th grader, has been taking guitar lessons at the MRC since the beginning of the school year.

JUDE: There are a lot of different options and there are so many different styles you can do on the same instrument and I really like that.

But in order to support its mission to provide more students such as Jude the same space to explore their music in the future, the MRC needs to raise money and increase the decibels to get noticed.

Hence, Anderson’s idea to get students outside, playing for drivers stuck in traffic, the ultimate Traffic Jam.

ADAM DISBROW: Traffic jam is cool. I came in this day and Ike here said hey “Traffic Jam,” and I didn’t know what he meant so I said, “got more cars than a beach got sand,” he said “yea, outside play”? I said oh yea, cool of course.

The Dave Matthews Band reference is fitting of a Charlottesville music crowd, but Adam Disbrow, one of the MRC music teachers, says music is really about the fluidity. The feeling.

DISBROW: So when you get out on the street and play people are just like oh my gosh, music and it’s live, meaning it’s being created right there in front of you and that is an amazing art.

ANDERSON: You’ve got to have that outlet to express yourself and music is a great way to do that. It’s a universal language that everyone gets and I haven’t met a kid that said they didn’t like music.

And the kids and drivers seem to be enjoying the free shows.

ANDERSON: Since we’ve done this people have a better idea about what we’re doing. They see kids out here playing music and people love it.  People call and they ask if we’re going to do it.  People are stopping and giving us money and we get a lot of people who pull over and ask “what do you guys actually do?”

Traffic Jam sessions happen pretty randomly. Students come out with the sun, and during some of the busier traffic times on Avon Street.

Playing for the crowd, hoping to get a little appreciation [*honk*] and attention.