Several youths sit spell bound as they watch the student teacher strum on an electric guitar. A young boy sits at a computer with headphones on. He smiles before singing into a microphone.

Welcome to Athletic Recreation Center’s Thursday night Music Lab. Music lab is a partnership between Parks & Rec and Beyond the Bars. There are 10 music labs in recreation centers throughout the city.

Beyond the Bars is a free youth music program that seeks to interrupt the cycles of violence. It began as a volunteer music program for youth in jail in 2015. Since then, the program has expanded to include youth ages, generally 8 to 18. Some sites also welcome adults. The organization has 40 music labs throughout the city.

The program uses music to help kids:

  • Express themselves.
  • Build their self-confidence.
  • Encourage self-exploration.

Youth can work with peer teachers to:

  • Make beats.
  • Write songs.
  • Record their voice.
  • Play an instrument.

Student teachers instruct kids from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. one day a week at six recreation sites. The other four offer workshops throughout the year to teach kids how to use Apple’s Logic music software.

Besides engaging youth with music, the program connects youth with resources. More than 500 youth have participated in the program.

Music lab provides a safe space where young people can try new things and make mistakes. It’s a place for youth to connect with friends and just hang out.

When an older teenager was asked what he liked about music lab, he replied, “the community vibe.”

Be sure to check Finder for specific details including ages, dates, and times.