by Lou Mancinelli
Thanks to Wyndmoor musician Brian Walker, 25 Philadelphia bands have contributed songs to an album that, through sales, will benefit Rock To The Future, a youth music education program launched in 2010 by Jessica McKay, a Business Administration graduate from Temple University who left a job in the financial services industry to begin it. “Rock” provides free music education for underserved inner-city kids.
A few bands featured on the album will perform at a listening party Thursday, Aug. 29, 8 p.m., at the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PhilaMOCA), 531 N. 12th St. (at Spring Garden). Located in a former showroom for mausoleums and tombstones, PhilaMOCA is a gallery space complete with stage and screen.
“Growing up I never had music education,” said Brian Walker, 25, who attended Our Mother of Consolation and Springfield Township High School.
This year Walker founded The Quarterly Project, the goal of which is to unify the diversity of the Philadelphia music scene while also serving the youth of the community. “Musicians are not just entertainers,” he explained. “It is our responsibility to bring communities together and to help them grow.”
The aforementioned album was released this month and is now available online at Bandcamp.com for $5. It features bands like Toy Soldiers, who played at the Pastorius Park Wednesday night concert series this summer, as well as Walker’s band, A Day Without Love.
The inspiration to start the organization was the massive cuts to the arts in Philadelphia public education. Facing a $304 million gap, the City laid off 76 itinerant music teachers in June, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“I wanted to use my resources to actually help people,” said Walker, who earned his master’s degree in industrial organizational psychology this year from Hofstra University in New York.
When Walker moved back to the area after school, he encountered a Philadelphia music scene he said he found hard to navigate. While an undergrad at Penn State University, he experienced the same. Thousands of musicians who hardly know one another. So he started The Songwriters Club, a way for local musicians to network.
Though Walker only learned to play music his freshman year at college, he has played almost 100 shows. But he struggled to meet people. He said he found a community that was diverse and friendly but disconnected.
He experienced promoters who seemed more interested in filling space than creating a cohesive evening. He has sent out emails and made phone calls that go unanswered. That’s a part of the business he wants to make easier.
Walker is also credited with starting the Philadelphia Do-It-Yourself Collaborative, an independent citywide Facebook group for artists, musicians and independent business owners.
Throughout the city are countless private houses that host shows almost every weekend and even during the week.
There are basements and family rooms that serve as networking nexuses for a generation of musicians and artists who might have otherwise gone to New York or L.A. For someone starting out, the only way to network is to keep playing. “I kind of want to bring back the face-to-face thing between musicians,” Brian said, adding that Facebook could turn into a lifeless platform.
Walker’s agenda is to have The Quarterly Project serve as a larger networking framework for the people who run, perform and attend those shows. At the same time, he decided he could create album compilations that showcased the dynamic talent of Philly bands and raise money for youth music education.
His vision for The Quarterly goes beyond the music. “I think a big part of keeping small business alive is not just the fiscal side,” he said. “It’s the networking side as well.”
Walker’s day job is as a human relations specialist with Comcast. That’s a skill he can leverage in his endeavors as The Quarterly Project evolves. The organization is in the process of acquiring nonprofit status.
For more information about the Aug. 29 concert, call 267-519-9651 or visit www.philamoca.org. More information about The Quarterly Project is at thequarterlyproject.tumblr.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. To purchase the album, visit thequarterly.bandcamp.com.