Marcus Johnson, Lake Charles middle school band director and guitar instructor, along with the Arts and Humanities Council of Southwest Louisiana and Baton Rouge Music Studios (BRMS) are combining efforts to ignite a spark in young musicians of Southwest Louisiana. The plan begins with a showcase of fifty students in ten bands from BRMS performing in Southwest Louisiana schools throughout the day on Friday, March 16th, then performing a free concert at the Central School Theater later that evening. This event will be an introduction to a new kind of music camp that Johnson is planning for the Lake Charles area. The camp is set to take place at Central School from Monday, June 11th to Friday June 15th, culminating in a concert by the students.
In addition to being a band director, Johnson has over a decade of experience as a professional guitarist in music genres ranging from jazz and blues to rock and zydeco, and he is passionate about working with young musicians who may not fit the school band mold or who want to supplement their school music experience with contemporary music. With a passion for popular music, Johnson has a drive to initiate a new music school for area youth that focuses on contemporary music.
In order to see this project come to fruition in the near future, Johnson has met with the BRMS director of programs, Doug Gay, who is currently running a contemporary music school in Baton Rouge. Johnson and Gay discussed all of the possibilities to start a new venture together in Lake Charles and decided that a summer camp would be a good litmus test to see if there is enough interest to one day start a full-fledged school of contemporary music and music technology, similar to the school Gay has built in Baton Rouge.
Originally from Lake Charles, Gay is excited about the possibility of helping Johnson build a community of young musicians, parents, and local music professionals in his hometown. Over the past 6 years, Gay has built a school of contemporary music from the ground up, and his student base is now growing faster than ever with over 250 students per week. Now he works with a full staff of administrators and instructors and multiple programs in music performance and technology. Gay is confident that Johnson has the passion and drive to create these same opportunities for young musicians in Lake Charles.
Young Band Nation is the nickname of Gay's flagship program at BRMS, officially labeled the “Young Band Development Program.” The program consists of 50 students in 10 bands, some of whom will be performing 4 major music festivals this year including Festival Internationale in Lafayette and The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The students learn a variety of genres and learn the intricacies of a career in music. They rehearse several hours a week, create Facebook pages and websites to market their bands, learn how to use audio and video hardware and software, and write and record original songs that they release through BRMS’s mastering and CD duplication studio, as well as on SoundCloud and YouTube.