The Music Resource Center (MRC) is an after school music program that operates out of the Sacred Heart Music Center in Duluth, and it’s pretty much the real-life version of the movie “School of Rock.”
“There’s a need for kids to have a safe place to go after school,” said Eric Swanson, local sound engineering master and one of the MRC’s main instructors. “Also, especially in public schools, there are large cutbacks to the music programs.”
Every Tuesday and Thursday from 4 p.m., to 6 p.m., at Sacred Heart Music Center, kids ages 12 to 18 are able to show up and learn anything and everything related to music.
“It’s much more than just lessons,” Swanson said.
The curriculum at the MRC is entirely unique – mostly because there really isn’t one; at least not one that’s set in stone. The kids who show up to play get to decide what they want to learn. With the sonic sanctuary that is Sacred Heart, there is no limit to what they can do.
“We’re very flexible,” Swanson said. “We try to teach them what they want to learn. If we can’t do it, we try to find someone who can. People are happy to come help the program.”
The current location is a staple in the Duluth music scene. Aside from hosting the MRC, Sacred Heart Music Center functions as a live music venue, as well as a well-equipped recording studio. Alan Sparhawk from the band Low is a partner in the studio. The MRC often has local legends popping by to share their wisdom.
Swanson is well known in the area for his sound engineering mastery. He’s recorded many of the more popular Duluth artists, including Low, and Trampled by Turtles. Swanson specializes in teaching the students of the MRC the technological side of the music world.
Darrin Bergsven is the other main instructor for the program. While Swanson teaches the kids how to mic up a recording studio, Bergsven teaches them how to play the instruments they want to record.
“I think it’s a really cool program,” Bergsven said. “I think back to when I was in high school rehearsing in a band, writing tunes, and trying to record things. This is a cool opportunity for kids to get straight into it.”
Some of the students at the MRC have more experience than others, and some are only just starting out. The open curriculum allows students to learn from each other, as well as from the instructors.
The program is largely funded by grants and donations. The MRC is a program of the Armory Music and Arts Center in Duluth. Sacred Heart is only a temporary location for the program, and future plans look to The Armory building.
“Working at Sacred Heart is really cool.” Bergsven said. “It’s where the music scene is in Duluth - everybody’s walking through all the time.”
People interested in getting involved in the program can simply show up to Sacred Heart on those Tuesdays and Thursdays to register. Kids interested in participating must be enrolled in school. For now, the program is free to any who want to come.
The MRC recently brought on a program manager to help take care of the administrative work that goes along with running a smooth operation. Local musician Emily Haavik has taken on that role, and she had nice things to say about her MRC colleagues.
“It’s not just any instruction these kids are getting,” Haavik said. “(Bergsven) is a gigging musician, he’s a jazz guitarist, music teacher – he’s at a very high level of talent. And (Swanson) is one of the most respected sound engineers around. (The students) are getting really high quality instruction, which is cool.”
(Authors Note: Emily Haavik is a former Lake Voice editor, and is one of my best good pals. )