Elks donate performance space to ROX Academy


Above: Volunteers painted the third floor of the Elks Lounge a sunny yellow to cover the drab purple. (Photo by Kelsey Shea).

Rather than a song, workers who transformed the unused third floor room in the Elks Club into a performance space for ROX Performance Academy compared the project to a math equation.

“What we had was a growing music program that needed a little more space and the Elks Club had all kinds of space, but needed a little help,” said Northside Leadership Conference Executive Director Mark Fatla, noting that community intervention got thrown in the mix. “All that adds up to a space for kids on the Northside.”

About 25 volunteers from Rivers Casino, five from ROX and a few from Sherwin Williams worked through the sweltering heat on Wednesday morning to repaint and fix up a room in the Elks Lounge on Cedar Avenue that will be used for weekly performance sand group lessons for ROX Academy. 

The ROX Performance Academy is a nonprofit organization that provides performance lessons and instruments to kids who can’t otherwise afford them. The young musicians are broken into bands and play popular rock, R&B and hip hop music.

ROX is sponsored by the Northside Leadership Conference and aims to assist students by developing their musical, social and communicative abilities through teaching and performance training in a professional learning environment.

The new Northside performance space will help grow the program, which came to the Northside six months ago and has been growing rapidly. ROX hopes to have 501c status by the end of 2012.

“It’s amazing to see what this has all grown into,” said ROX founder Stefan Rodriguez

Currently 12 Northside kids are enrolled in the program and take vocal, guitar, drum or wind instrument lessons free of charge.  The program started in Monroeville where 60 students are enrolled, but Rodriguez expanded the program to the Northside because he felt there was a need for a program like his and because it reminded him of where he grew up in Chicago.

Rodriguez and President Joe Lawrence said they also hope to hold events in the new space to raise money to provide more kids with loaned instruments.

“That’s our plan, but for right now changing the lives of 12 kids is pretty great,” said Lawrence, who noted that raising funds was ROX biggest challenge.

ROX Performance Academy continually accepts new students and volunteer instructors. At Wednesday’s event, Rodriguez said one of the Rivers Casino workers volunteered his musical skills to the program.

Fatla and Lawrence thanked the painters from Rivers for their time and Sherwin Williams for supplying the paint and supplies for the project.

“Today you are all Northsiders,” said Fatla. “The think about folks on the Northsid is that we talk about it, then we figure out how to get stuff done.”

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