The Uptown Music Collective was founded in 2000 by Dave Brumbaugh, a Berklee College of Music Graduate who was born and raised in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Since the turn of the century, the school has evolved into a highly respected nonprofit music school with a reputation for “walking its talk”, and delivering superior music education programs that have a lasting impact on students, families, and the community.
Our story as an organization is about engaging students where they are, and then guiding them to where we would like them to go. It’s about our commitment to emphasizing modern music and new approaches to education, instead of holding fast to traditions that are beautiful, but out of touch with the modern world. Most importantly, it’s a story of building a community, instead of a customer base.
Our Story (and my story)
Our story is in part my story. I’m Dave Brumbaugh, and I founded the Uptown Music Collective in April of 2000. It was the fulfillment of a goal that I had set years before. That goal was to create a place where passionate students of music could meet, work together, and through that work, encourage, challenge, inspire and support one another’s musical growth. A place that would be a community of students, musicians, music lovers, and music educators all striving to create and share the art of music.
Growing up in Williamsport, PA, I started my music education on the wrong foot. I wanted to be a drummer at 8 years old, I ended up on the Coronet in the Elementary School Band. My only instruction on the instrument was from a band director who sat watching cartoons on a small TV, while asking me to play exercises from a book. I did not make a connection with music at that point in my life. In fact, at the end of the year a note arrived at home stating that (true story) “Your son has no musical talent, and we would prefer if he did not return to the band next year”.
Fast forward 5 years… In an expedition with friends to Robert M. Sides as a 13 year old, I walked into a room filled with electric guitars and everything changed. Angels sang, the earth moved, and I was hooked.
However, due to my early experience with lessons, I made a commitment to learning to play the guitar on my own…
I was lucky, in the fact that I had friends who also wanted to learn to play. We formed a group before any of us could really play. Through that experience I learned one of the important lessons that the Uptown Music Collective would eventually be based on.
I had the important experience of discovering and connecting deeply to music while surrounded by friends who shared the same passion. Through our hours and hours of rehearsals and musical discussions, I found the joy of learning and making music with others, and honed my technical skills, creativity and musicality through their encouragement and our (usually) friendly competition.
After attending, and graduating from Berklee College of Music, I made my way for ten years as a professional musician, finally returning to Williamsport Pa, where I began performing and teaching locally. Teaching music soon became as deep of a passion for me as performing and writing music.
As I struggled to improve the work that I was doing with my students, I came to the realization that most of my best, most musical students, shared the same experience of growing and learning in music while surrounded by group of musical friends. As a teacher I wanted to find a way to give this gift to all of my students. That idea became the cornerstone of the Uptown Music Collective.
I started the school with 20 students in a second floor walk-up above what is now Acme Barbecue on Market Street, in Williamsport. At its core was this idea of creating a musical peer group that would support, inspire and challenge program participants.
So it began… The early students at the Uptown Music Collective paid $120 per month, and took a private lesson,a class in Music Theory and had weekly opportunities to play together in various multi instrumental workshops, including the Rock Workshop, Blues Workshop, Acoustic Workshop and Jazz Workshop.
Over time the student body grew. I hired on my first employee/teacher partner, Scott Francis. Scott was a former student who had attended Berklee and recently moved back into the area. Aside from playing the guitar and bass, Scott had some expertise in computer based music applications and recording and these were added to the school’s offerings.
As the word spread, more students took advantage of our educational opportunities. The school’s regular recitals led to more public performances, such as monthly performances at Williamsport’s First Friday Events, other public events, as well as private parties. Eventually we started to present our own large scale public events in local hotel ballrooms, performing material like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (2004), Woodstock (2004) and Tommy (2005).
Those early shows were highly successful, musically and financially, eventually leading to the Uptown Music Collective being invited to take the big stage at the Community Arts Center, a 2000 plus-seat theater in the heart of downtown Williamsport, to present Pink Floyd’s The Wall in 2006.
At the same time, the system behind the Uptown Music Collective’s programs began to bear fruit. Many of those early students like Mallory Scoppa (BFA Penn State, UMC Teacher) Ben Geise (BA in Music from Pitt), Mike Borowski (Masters in Music from Duquesne), Cline Dye (BA in Music Composition from Bowling Green University), Quinn Dilick (BA in Music from Berklee College of Music), Emily Hulslander (BA in Music from Berklee College of Music), Morgan (Pinnsoneault) Myles (BA in Music Business from Belmont University) to name just a few, went on to study music at the College level, and most are still active in music today.
Once dubbed “the best kept secret in Williamsport”, the word about what we were doing really started getting out, as people began talking about the “edgy” little music school down on Market Street. More and more students signed up for the school’s educational programs, and space was becoming a serious problem.
In 2006 the Uptown Music Collective moved into its second home at 848 West Fourth Street. The same year it filed for, and received, 501 (c)(3), tax exempt, nonprofit status. The new designation and the new facility opened up a lot of possibilities, and allowed for a larger student population and teaching staff.
As the school grew, it became increasingly important to provide high quality instruction to our students. Former students, like Alex Callenberger, Collin Beatty, and Willi Ort were added to the teaching roster, and Jared Mondell became the first dedicated, non teaching staff member.
In the 848 West Fourth Street space, Uptown Music Collective enjoyed its largest growth spurt to date. We expanded our performance program to include a series of Orchestral Rock Concerts with local youth and college orchestras, took two of our performance groups to Memphis TN., to perform in the International Blues Challenge, and expanded to 5 major performances a year.
The most important growth however took place in our student peer group, as generations of evolution led to new standards of behavior within the student community itself. In it’s 10 years in that funky Victorian Building, the school also evolved its programs, administration, fundraising philosophy, and community relationships.
In 2015 those community relationships built up over time, paid off. The school had been running out of room for years, and the school’s Board of Directors had been actively seeking a new space to move to, when the City of Williamsport offered the school a Class A space in a new building downtown.
The Building was being built by the City of Williamsport, and River Valley Transit, as an expansion of the city’s transit center. The City was looking for a nonprofit organization to rent space on the second floor of the building, and approached us at the perfect time. There were many advantages to this project for the UMC. Chief among them was the opportunity to design our own space.
As the 2016-2017 school year began, the Uptown Music Collective found itself working out of a brand new space, and teaching on brand new equipment purchased with funds raised from our fundraising campaign called the Dream Home Project.
As of this moment, the school has been in the existence for 17 years. We provide an average of 135 lessons, 5 classes and 5 workshops per week and present an average of 70 public and private performance events throughout the year.
What was once a “boys club” is now a dead even split between boys and girls (leaning more to the girl’s side lately). Students come to the Uptown Music Collective each week from 7 different counties and 30 different schools.With the new space we are currently operating in, we have a huge capacity for growth and are excited to still be able to provide area youth a connection to the life changing power of music.
Thanks for your interest in our story.
– Dave Brumaugh 3/28/15