Scott Graves
Curry Coastal Pilot

When my wife bought me a pair of conga drums as a present more than six years ago, little did I know the musical journey it would spark, or the wonderful opportunities and people I would encounter along the way.

So far the trip has included teaching drums as a volunteer for KASPER's summer youth program, and playing with various musicians at Brookings' Second Saturday Art Walks, Hootenanny singalongs, festivals and local jam nights.

These opportunities provided invaluable experience that not only helped me grow as an amateur musician, but to prepare for one the most exciting endeavors of my life: the new non-profit organization called Stagelights Musical Arts Community.

In October, I was invited to join the Stagelights board by its originators Kim Banfield, Perry Devine and James Anderson andndash; all musicians who have participated in the local music culture as teachers, promoters and providers of music. Local resident and musician Chele Later recently became our fifth board member.

Forming a non-profit group from scratch is not easy (especially when it's one's first time) but, after several weeks of intensive board meetings, we have finalized our name, bylaws and mission statement, and we are preparing to file for our non-profit status.

Also, we are ready to go public with our mission and our first fundraiser andndash; a modest one scheduled today (Nov. 21). More about that in a minute.

In a nutshell, Stagelight's mission is to provide music education, enrichment and enjoyment to all age groups andndash; regardless of their ability to pay andndash; and to act as a communal center for established and aspiring musicians.

Our initial goals include raising enough money andndash; through donations and grants andndash; to provide scholarships and free or low-cost access to instruments, teachers and mentors. We are also planning an afterschool program in which music-minded students can hang out in a safe environment and explore all facets of music and the musical arts.

One day, Stagelights hopes to establish a community center that would serve as a home for it's programs and those of other community organizations.

If you like what you've heard so far about Stagelights and its goals, I encourage you to join us at 7 p.m. tonight for our first fundraiser andndash; a screening of the highly-acclaimed documentary, "Playing For Change, Peace Through Music," at Centre Stage, located in the Central Building at 703 Chetco Ave. in Brookings. The event is free, but contributions will be greatly appreciated.

Many people are familiar with the Playing For Change documentary ( because of a series of popular Internet videos that feature street musicians from all over the world playing the same song. The most popular of these videos features the song "Stand By Me."

The documentary will be preceded by a mini-concert by the Stagelights House Band, which will perform songs associated with the theme of the documentary. The screening will be followed by a discussion about what the Stagelights organization is all about, as well as what citizens can to do to promote the film's goal of connecting the world through music.

For years I've enjoyed learning, playing and sharing music with others. It's pure magic, and I believe that Stagelights can help others connect with that magic as well as spark many a musical journey.

All aboard!