by Susan Varnes-Newland
(Guest blogger from Grieve The Astronaut) ~ ~

Live It Out Loud

Music Education Programs: Live It OutLoud and Practicing Musician

As I sit in my red, vinyl bean bag chair, put my headsets on, cord attached to the turntable…

When my parents got married, my Dad was an optometrist in Spokane, WA. 6 years and 3 children later, Dad decided to make a career change. He became a wheat farmer in the rolling hills of the Palouse. And then I arrived. Child number 4. There was very little money available to spend on extra-curricular activities. Fortunately, my fraternal grandparents believed strongly in music education. Grandfather Varnes handmade beautiful violins as a hobby. They bought us a piano, and initially paid for piano lessons for my older sister and me. My brothers played trombone in the school band. I did not have a lot of social activity living on the farm. Music became my best friend. Some of my prominent memories are about trips to Spokane. I would get so excited when we visited a music store, and I was able to pick out new sheet music. On the 60-mile drive home, I would hold tightly onto my new friend. If we arrived home at night, my parents would let me stay up late and sit at the piano. Slowly reading the notes and pressing down the ivory keys. In my mind, I was playing a masterpiece. In reality… well, I’m sure it was a little painful to their ears. What a great memory, though. And what a great gift. I have never met a person who said they regretted learning an instrument. I know plenty of adults, though, who wished they had.

A rich historical part of the Seattle-Tacoma area, is the importance of music. Recently I read the book “Sonic Boom” by Peter Blecha. The history of Northwest Rock. It was a fascinating read. I had no idea that Quincy Jones and Ray Charles had their musical careers start here. The Ventures, The Sonics, The Kingsmen, Paul Revere and The Raiders, Heart, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden… And the list goes on. These musicians did not end up in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame overnight. They started out as children who were given an instrument and then given opportunities to learn and play, via family, friends and community support. Today I am sharing about two music education programs available in the Seattle-Tacoma area; Live It Out Loud and Practicing Musician.

Ted Brown Music Outreach, Tacoma, is on their 7th year of hosting the Live It OutLoud Program. An 8-week rock camp for kids ages 12-18. And speaking of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, their new partner is London Bridge Studios (this studio has an impressive history of Northwest band recordings.)  Their vision is “to see young people improve their lives through the gift of music….music enhances the quality of life by improving learning abilities, relieving stress and providing a chance to change lives.”  An exciting addition to this year’s program is newly appointed Director, Nashville recording artist, Jessica Lynne! Jessica is a full-time musician herself. She actively plays in over 100 shows a year, so definitely understands all the nuances of performing. I can personally vouch for her, BECAUSE, I am one of the people who works her merchandise table during shows. Her energy is so positive, children automatically flock to her.

Where was this program when I was growing up? The ability to learn music and create the confidence to perform it, is life changing. Especially if you’re an artistic and creative child. Those are the kids who have a challenging time during their teenage years. Their creativity may set them apart from others in their age group.  Through this camp, they receive an opportunity to meet other people just like them.

The kids are put into bands and given a mentor to guide them through the ins and outs of being a musician. They are provided with lessons and rehearsal spaces, along with clinics by some of the Northwest’s greatest musicians, such as Ben Smith (Heart and Roadcase Royale), Lynn Sorenson (Bad Company) and Travis Larson (Travis Larson Band).  The program highlight, is the August 12th Red Carpet Awards Show at the Rialto Theater, which is open to the public. At the end, students get to experience recording live at the London Bridge Studio, where Alice and Chains, Sound Garden, Pearl Jam and Queensryche have recorded. WOW! Imagine the self-esteem boost that would give a child who was really struggling to find themselves. I will be posting a link to this program at the bottom of the page.

Another opportunity to grow in music, will be with the Practicing Musician Program. This is a brand-new program being created by Jake Douglass, with the goal of being available online to the public this fall. 15 teachers will record foundational lessons. These teachers are members of the Seattle Symphony, professors from the University of Washington, instructors from the Seattle Drum School, and even a standup bassist down in New Orleans. Most of them have held positions in top orchestras and bands around the world.

Practicing Musicians

The Practicing Musician will be offered in schools as a free teaching tool. Any individual who begins using the program will pay $10 per month to gain access to all prior lessons. To gain complete access to the entire program is only $20 per month. That’s an incredible price for professional music lessons!  Plus, the ability to access these lessons in your own location and time frame is priceless. As a working parent, who had to try and coordinate music lessons around my job, this flexibility is wonderful. Or, as an adult, trying to find time to learn an instrument. You will have it at your fingertips, available to you at your own discretion.The Practicing Musician will be the catalyst that evolves music education from the currently limited scope of students to true equal opportunity; it will make music education affordable and accessible for everyone.

I asked Jake for some background information and the motivation for him to create this program. He was very honest. “In my opinion, music is one of the most powerful tools for transformation. In fact, it was the catalyst that led to my sobriety. I was drinking a fifth to half a gallon every day, while taking at least 2 (and sometimes up to 8) other drugs simultaneously. And I was highly functional. But if I had kept going almost certainly would have died. Family, school, work, friends, jail, nothing could get me sober. Except Music. Music finally did it.”

That’s a very powerful story, and statement on how healing music is. It can get into your soul and brain, and give you the peace and love you are looking for. It can literally change your life. Heal you and make you whole. Bring new opportunities and people into your life. Create friendships. You just need to let it into your life. As Ben Smith told me “The Practicing Musician is going to help anyone develop into the musician they want to be. Without an outlet for my inspirations, who knows where I would have gone?”.

And although we may have dreams of being a Rockstar like Ben, that’s not what learning an instrument is all about. It’s something that you can enjoy for your entire life. It doesn’t matter if no one is in your audience, it only matters that you play! And, it gives you a terrific opportunity and reason to get together with friends. Not too long ago, I stopped by a friend’s house on a Friday night. They had created an entire studio for them to play in.  Sometimes they perform for friends. But that is not what their goal is. It’s just about getting together, and connecting through music. But first, you must learn an instrument.

I suddenly have a desire to pull out some sheet music, and become one with the ivories. The music is calling me.

For more information on Live It Outloud, visit their website

For information on Practicing Musician you can check out their Facebook page or contact Jake Douglass at

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