Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), February 6, 2020
Photos by Jeff Crespi (Beat Bus photo by Tom Chesek)
“We are all created creative,” says Ben Marino. “It’s just a matter of pulling that part of ourselves out.”
By that metric, the young veteran drummer might seem to have clued in to one of the most perfect situations in all of “creation” — a job as a music director at Asbury Park’s Lakehouse Music Academy.
It’s there inside the busy complex overlooking Wesley Lake that the Bloomfield, NJ resident helps oversee a slate of instructional programs designed to pull that passionate purveyor of music out from students that range in age from six months, to (currently) 75 years young.
While at first glance the LHMA mission might seem similar to numerous “School of Rock” programs from sea to shining sea, this is Asbury Park — and here in the music-mad little city that makes a gloriously big noise, it’s simply not enough to adhere to a strictly by-the-numbers classic-rock canon. And, while other instructors might prompt their students to essentially play dress-up in the boots of Janis, Jimi or Jim, the Lakehouse team takes a different tack, in which the student performer is encouraged to build something all their own, on the foundations of those innovators from pop history.
In the words of Lakehouse founder/owner (plus in-demand producer, engineer, songwriter and session musician) Jon Leidersdorff (pictured), the curriculum centers around “teaching kids to write and evolve as a creative person…and apply those skillsets you get from being creative.”
Beginning at 5 pm on Friday, February 7 — and continuing through two more music-packed mornings, afternoons and nights — the program and the people who power it take center-lanes stage at Asbury Lanes, as the reborn bowl-a-rama plays host for the second consecutive year to the student showcase event known as The Big Gig.
The culmination of the academy’s Fall 2019 semester, the weekend-long affair is one of three such showcases presented throughout the year; a modern-day vaudeville that brings more than 60 different bands — each representing a specific LHMA class in one of four age categories (Cadet, Get Started, Core, Adult Night Session) — to the stage that’s spotlighted a dazzling array of local, national, and international talent.
Picking up from previous Big Gig weekends at venues like House of Independents and the Wonder Bar, the triple-header event is completely free of charge to attend, and open to all members of the public. In other words, one need not be a family member of a participating student to appreciate the level of talent on display — in fact, it’s not hyperbole to suggest that music fans can expect to get an early look at acts that will soon be graduating to “grownup gigs” on many of the area’s most stellar stages.
“One of our Core program bands, a group called Mannequin Arm, opened for Southside Johnny at the Count Basie Theatre on New Year’s Eve,” says Marino of one the academy’s latest success stories. “They started all the way back in our Lakehouse Littles program, and graduated to other levels.”
Indeed, a glance at the roster of Moto Records, the in-house label operated by Lakehouse, displays several acts that should be familiar to regular followers of the Asbury-centric music scene — acts like Sonic Blume, Ella Ross, and one of the newest breakout performers, Lauren Gill (who will be headlining a Stone Pony matinee show on the afternoon of Sunday, February 16).