Behind the scenes at any Uptown Music Collective performance there is a unique support culture that the audience only gets an occasional glimpse of.  It’s this culture which has made the school’s performances successful, and allowed the program to grow to the extent that it has.

From the beginning it was clear that rock shows involving 30 or more student performers constantly coming on and off stage would require a highly skilled and well-motivated tech crew. Immediately it became apparent the best answer was to train a group of students to fulfill the need, and the Tech Monkeys were born.

Participation in the Tech Monkey Workshop and the Tech Monkey Teams  has been a requirement for many years now for any and all students interested in eventually joining the UMC’s performance groups. Being part of Tech Monkey teaches students important stage, sound and lighting skills. As well as discipline, humility, teamwork and leadership. All skills and traits that blend with the musical skills the UMC teachers to prepare our students for performance.

The fact that every performer on the stage in a major performance has at one time or another served as a Tech Monkey, gives them a great appreciation for the crew in black. While also inspiring current Techs to work hard, knowing that if they learn their lessons well, the will soon be taking the stage while the next generation of techs supports their performances.

I vividly remember a conversation at a Special Performance Group 1 performance after party where I was sitting with a group of Tech Monkeys when one of them said I can’t wait until we are all in SPG1 together, it’s going to be awesome… That tech was current SPG1 guitarist/vocalist Dom Fredin, and the others he was speaking with are all now members of the current group.

As with all things at the UMC, we are always seeking ways to improve our programs. This year Tech Monkey has been reorganized, and as part of that reorganization a performance tech crew has been formed that is made up of 12 members. That is dedicated to working as the tech crew for all of the school’s major performances. Our intent is to focus even more on team building, developing comradery, and teaching student leadership.

Just as SPG1 starts moving into serious rehearsals this coming weekend. So does Tech Monkey Group 1, as they begin the preparations necessary to partner with SPG1 in presenting Walk This Way: The Music of Aerosmith.

Their part in this performance is every bit as vital as those performing on stage. As they assist with every switch of personnel, oversee the movement of any and all set pieces, help with the change of instruments, reset the stage between songs, and keep their eyes out for tangled equipment, malfunctioning equipment, and emergency instrument substitutions. Not to mention those tasked with manning the huge torpedo tube like spot lights in the spotlight booth at the CAC.

All hail this year’s Tech Monkey Group 1. As I end our dress rehearsals I will frequently ask the SPG1 performers… “have you hugged a tech monkey today?” Make sure you hug one next time you see one.