6/6/2013 - Lisa Guyer launched her Music Empowerment Program last summer not really knowing what to expect. The day camp for teenage performers doesn’t teach technique. It exists to fan the creative spark in young musicians.
“It’s about being an artist and drawing from within,” explained Guyer recently. “It’s very unusual.”
The idea worked, and Guyer began pondering her follow-up. One goal is getting the program into schools, but such an effort takes a year or more. The singer has an impatient streak; she needed to do something sooner. Then Mama Kicks co-founder Gardner Berry called to ask for her thoughts on reviving a weekly jam session at Whippersnappers in Londonderry.
Guyer advised him not to do it, and Berry replied that he missed the energy of young musicians who stopped by to play.
“I really liked the kids,” he said.
What happened next, said Guyer, was a “light switch” moment.
“I thought, if I get involved with this, maybe I can tie it into my music program.”
With that, the Monday’s Muse series was born, a weekly jam session meets master class with veterans and youngsters performing together. The experience provided an impetus for Guyer’s latest project, a summer-long battle of the bands.
It kicks off Monday, June 17, and runs through Aug. 11.
“I have some really creative and good-looking bands,” said Guyer. “I feel good about it because it’s just organically growing.”
Focused both on playing and competing, the competition features four bands a night for four weeks of introductory rounds, followed by four more weeks of eliminations. The top band collects a $3,000 prize, and the runner-up wins $500.
Guyer’s summer program begins Aug. 12 in a new Suncook location near her Pembroke Academy alma mater. Multi-instrumentalist Vinx is loaning his Dreamsicle performance space for a one-week program that could extend to two with additional enrollments.
Guyer points out that scholarships are available for interested students.
“We need something like this when budget cuts happen to arts and sports first. Arts make a human being so much better-rounded, it teaches you to let go, it teaches camaraderie and trust.”
She remains driven by the idea that among her young charges lurks an Adele or Bruno Mars to be nurtured.
“They inspire me to feel that urgency of, ‘I can’t breathe without this.’ ... It’s important for me to be around these kids; it gives me the perspective to create more.”
It comes at a time of transition for the 50-year-old musician. Mama Kicks, the band Guyer began as a duo with Berry in 1993, will end a 20-year run on June 29 at Whippersnappers.
“I made the decision, I am Mama,” explained Guyer with a chuckle. “Nothing’s wrong, we all love each other, [but] it became a dead-end thing. The short answer … it’s time. It’s time for me.”
She continues to duo with Berry and is working on an album of originals with the band’s drummer, David Stefanelli. Soon, the singer will launch Lisa Guyer’s Gypsy Caravan, a throwback to Mama Kicks’ Wednesday shows at Manchester’s Black Brimmer, when everyone from local players to presidential candidates sat in.
“I’d like to feature somebody like we did at the Brimmer,” she said. “It was lovely and we had someone different all the time. As musicians it kept us all on our toes. Because with a feature you don’t get together and rehearse, you just jam it.”
Guyer, Stefanelli and Mama Kicks guitarist Chris Lester are currently on tour with a Storytellers-flavored version of Sully Erna’s Avalon band. The Godsmack front man is working on a follow-up to his 2010 album, said Guyer.
“We have two songs that we’re playing live now. … We are in process for a second record, definitely.”