Everyone knows the phrase about musicians or artists starting out in a garage and that’s exactly what The Garage: Music & Arts Center is for. Located in the Shoppes at Riverside in south Aberdeen, they offer everything from workshops, rehearsal spaces and a performance venue, to instrument and amateur art consignment and more.

Director JR Lakey, Associate Director Kelly Durham and others have worked to build a space for those creative hearts on the harbor to explore their talents. Their passion for music and their community drove them to develop and run the non-profit 98520 Music and Arts District Initiative with hopes to give the arts a home through The Garage.

Lakey and Durham recognized the need for a space like this in Grays Harbor, for youth especially, and set out to do something about it. Lakey reflected on when he was a teacher in Aberdeen and had a student that would drive to Tacoma to be in a youth orchestra and said factors like this are part of what lead him to help open The Garage, with the educational component being an important aspect.

The Garage Music and Arts Center Aberdeen jr lakey and man smiling
JR Lakey (right) is the director of The Garage and volunteers a lot of time to help things run smoothly. Photo courtesy: The Garage: Music & Arts Center

“The idea for The Garage was always there, but there needed to be a larger entity,” Lakey says. “We weren’t out for the purpose of opening up a music store, that’s not our goal. Our goal is to provide access and opportunities.”

There are several opportunities geared toward youth now in place, like a preschool music class and home school band practices that take place there.

Durham had the idea for something like The Garage for years and just happened to be in the right place at the right time to present a business plan during an Aberdeen Revitalization Movement meeting last summer. She later met Lakey at a separate meeting and from there they formed the 98520 Music and Arts District Initiative to focus on making the space a reality.

“I sat down with Kelly and talked with her and I said ‘If we’re going to do this, I’m all in,'” Lakey says. “So we incorporated the non-profit on July 13 and members of the board worked with us to find ways to get this place open.”

They spent countless hours working to get the ball rolling.

Ongoing Community Events

Thursday Night Drum Circle
1st and 3rd Thursday of the month
5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Open Mic Night at Tinderbox
Second Saturday of the month

Stone Soup Songwriters Forum
Third Thursday of the month
7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

“JR and I probably spent I don’t know how many days, hours, just going over paperwork figuring out how to start up a non-profit,” Durham says. “After a lot of blood, sweat and tears, we’re here.”

Now, Lakey, Durham and one other volunteer do their best to keep The Garage open as much as possible.

“I like hanging out here, it’s really cool,” says Jeff Ranberg, retiree and volunteer at The Garage. “It’s fun, it’s a healthy way for me to spend my time.”

Personal Investments Made the Dream a Reality

Getting a project like this off of the ground takes funding and because of their dedication to the cause, both Lakey and Durham in a gracious move poured their own money into getting things going instead of relying solely on grants or donations.

Drum circles are hosted the first and third Thursdays of the month in the center of the mall, open to all ages. Photo courtesy: The Garage: Music and Arts Center

“I actually ended up leaving my job of ten years and cashing out my 401k and using it to help fund the place,” Durham says. “It was a giant leap of faith.”

Right now there are two practice rooms, a band rehearsal room and a central space for activities with plans to construct a small stage.

“We built the practice rooms, we put down carpet, all that stuff,” Lakey says. “A bulk of that came out of my pocket and out of Kelly’s pocket. But once our initial investment into the space went in since we opened, the space has paid for itself and we haven’t had to put our personal money into it.”

Working Together for the Arts

Neither Lakey nor Durham are from Grays Harbor, but have since made it their home. Durham is from Canada and moved down to the harbor in 2006 and Lakey is originally from Pierce County. Both continue to put their all into The Garage.

The Garage Music and Arts Center Aberdeen people playing instruments
Whether musicians are into jazz jams or rock jams, they’re sure to find something to they’ll love to be a part of at The Garage. Photo courtesy: The Garage: Music and Arts Center

“I definitely want to continue with this,” Durham says. “We want to host a lot more workshops and help the local community follow their passion and figure out where their jumping point is and get them out performing locally.”

In addition to working at Grays Harbor College teaching jazz choir and private voice classes, Lakey wanted to do more in the arts.

“I wanted to find another way to use my time productively and to help out the community,” Lakey says. “So this opportunity came along and I grabbed a hold of it and said ‘I want to do this.’ Then it became ‘Oh, I am going to do this. We are going to do this.'”

The Garage offers much more, so be sure to check out The Garage: Music & Arts Center website, Facebook page and YouTube channel for more details. Or for more information, call 360-209-4129 or e-mail biz@98520musicandarts.org. Their hours are 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays.

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