Justin Smith and Scott Vargas, the two young organizers behind ProjectSLC, believe public arts education could be improved by tapping into an ignored resource: local musicians.
And the musical artists like the idea.
Smith, 26, and Vargas, 24, recently persuaded 20 Utah bands to donate songs to Project SLC. The songs will be compiled into two albums, that hopefully will raise awareness — and money — to turn their ProjectSLC into a nonprofit business.
“We want to provide students with more than just music,” Smith said. “We want to provide them with a future not just as musicians but … all other aspects of the industry. The music industry has many facets that have yet to be explored in today’s youth.”
Smith and Vargas, independent journalists from Layton, started ProjectSLC in early 2012 as a website designed to provide Utah audiences with music listings. Initially, Vargas and Smith would interview local bands for the site. Later, they were able to talk to national bands that stopped in Utah.
One subject that came up during most interviews was the lack of arts programs in schools.
Marlana Sheetz of Milo Greene admitted that “if it wasn’t for music [in school], she never would have stuck with it,” Vargas said.
Those interviews inspired the duo to add music education to their mission statement.
Vargas is a Marine sergeant who was scheduled to be deployed to the former Soviet republic of Georgia earlier this month, but a family emergency ended those plans. As a veteran, who trains security forces, he has witnessed the “healing power of music” and believes students would benefit from being exposed to it at an early age.
In fiscal year 2010, Utah spent $6,452 per pupil, the lowest amount in the country, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That figure dismays Smith and Vargas. But they believe local musicians can help bridge the gap.
“Every band we’ve talked to about it has been excited,” Vargas said.
Michael Gross, the frontman for the local band Michael Gross & The Statuettes, said his band contributed a track for the compilation.
“There’s not a lot of funding for the arts,” Gross said. “Arts is way down on the priorities list. I support anyone who is trying to bring attention to the issue.”
Compilation No. 1
King Niko, “Guns Up”
Michael Gross & the Statuettes, “Waiting for Nothing”
When the Fight Started, “Drag You Down”
The Blue Aces, “Tried to Warn You”
Ryan Darton, “Living This Way”
Pablo Blaqk, “Find Your Way”
Empirates, “Black Hole”
Isaac Farr Trio, “Circles”
Compilation No. 2
Muscle Hawk, “Electric Light”
Burnell Washburn, “The Power”
Jesus or Genome, “Take All My Dreams”
The Arcadians, “No More Nightmares”
Means Nothing, “Lose Control”
The Mighty Sequoyah, “Know You”
The North Valley, “You Got That Straight Jake”
Hectic Hobo, “MacGregor”
More information can be found at ProjectSLC.com as well as facebook.com/projectslc. The compilations are available for download for $5 for either the nine-song or 11-song compilation.