There’s no music at the Boys & Girls Club these days, not since COVID-19 came to town.
Before that, after school, the club was filled with youngsters, playing, learning and generally being active under the supervision of counselors until their parents could come and collect them. Anywhere from 15 to 35 of the young people in attendance were part of a music program, led once a week by local musician and concert promoter, Rantz Gibson.
Gibson and his wife, Monica, a professional photographer, regularly donate their time and talents to the club, teaching the basics of music theory and performance to anyone interested in learning.
“David House, a B&GC board member, suggested we get involved in the club,” Gibson said. “We meet for about an hour each Wednesday with 15 kids who show up every time and another 20 or so who come and go. We were aiming to have a concert later this year, maybe with some local musicians sitting in, but with the club closed down that will have to wait until we’re back up and running.”
Gibson teaches the youngsters how to play melodicas, a free-reed instrument similar to a pump organ.
“The melodicas are inexpensive and can be played several different ways. It has a keyboard, and players blow air through a mouthpiece,” he said. “It’s a great starter instrument and later, when they’ve learned their scales and chords, they can decide what other instrument they want to play.”
Gibson said he also teaches with ukulele and the djembe, a small bongo drum, as well as guitars. Students are allowed to take their instruments home with them, so they can practice when they are not at the club.
“We passed out packets recently, full of instructions, so hopefully they will learn at home while the club is closed,” he added. “We’re glad that the Boys & Girls Club are taking measures to keep everyone safe. We hope to upload a video lesson for the kids to practice along with. I don’t doubt that they’re at home practicing with their new music packets.”
Gibson is also a community activist for local musicians and the organizer of NETFest, a series of concerts, music festivals and open mic nights at Paris venues, featuring musicians from northeast Texas, sponsored by local business people. He recently started a GoFundMe campaign on behalf of NETFest.
“NETFest is not a nonprofit,” he said. “We just haven’t made any profits yet. We’ve had some pretty big events already, but NETFest has been forced to cancel all upcoming events for the month of March because of the virus. We are now relying on sponsors and donations to the GoFundMe more than ever.”
The goal of the campaign is to raise $4,000, to be used to buy sound and recording equipment that will allow them to continue hosting and producing shows for local talent.
The funds will also be used to record professional level music videos for the artists for use as promotional material and auditions tapes, all at no charge to the artists.
Sponsors of NETFest include David House of House Jewelers, Mihir Pankaj of Hampton House, South Main Iron owners Kris Estep and Ryan Whitaker, Lauren Lamb at Time Flies, Christina Meeks at The Blind Pig, Steve Martin at Paris Coffee Company and Chris and Monica Hagen at The Depot.
To learn more about NETFest, go to their Facebook page: facebook.com/NETxFest/.