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Photo courtesy of Bob Temkin
Photo courtesy of Bob Temkin
The Greater Ridgewood Youth Council will hold an open meeting for local musicians on April 7.

Updated on March 29 at 10:20 a.m.

A longtime Ridgewood nonprofit known for its recreation, employment and after-school programs is launching a new music project, and it needs more people to join the band.

The Greater Ridgewood Youth Council (GRYC) will hold an open meeting on Saturday, April 7, to discuss the program with singers, songwriters and musicians in any genre that are interested in joining. The goal is to form a band of people from age 13 to 22 who have some prior musical experience and want a free opportunity to collaborate with others and learn from each other.

Bob Temkin, one of the volunteer directors of the program and owner of McKenna’s Florist in Glendale, has volunteered in other capacities in the neighborhood and said that music gives the youth a valuable escape from their day-to-day stresses.

“A lot of them need extracurricular activities, there’s a lot of depression,” Temkin said. “Music is really a great outlet. They say the arts are what separates humans from everyone else, and youth shouldn’t be excluded from that.”

Temkin explained that the program tentatively started a few months ago but the meetings stopped in the past few weeks due to the winter weather. With only a few kids that have joined so far, Temkin said they wanted to open it up to a wider variety of kids by expanding the age range and welcoming all musical backgrounds. The ultimate goal is to simply create an ongoing youth band that performs at small events and venues in the area.

For the past few years, the GRYC has also done a musical instrument exchange in which it accepts donated instruments in good condition and gives them away to young people, with the only condition being “That they continue to play, and if they don’t they have to give them back,” Temkin said.

While he plays the piano, Temkin said he’s not qualified to teach other people how to do it, and that’s where the program’s volunteer musical director comes in. Ken Voisin, a retired FDNY lieutenant, plays in 150 piano gigs per year these days and said he happily accepted the role when Temkin reached out to him.

Voisin said that since the program won’t be accepting complete beginners, he plans to focus more on teaching the kids how to coordinate and be a member of a band rather than teaching the music itself. He does hope that a songwriter joins the program, however, because he has experience making musical arrangements and can teach that skill.

As a boy I wish I had this opportunity,” Voisin said. “I knew nothing about being a member of a band when I joined my first one at 15. This is a free opportunity to play with other musicians and get tips from them. It’s a valuable situation for any musician that wants to gain experience.”

Going forward, Voisin hopes that he and Temkin can turn the GRYC music project into an “institution in the community” that future youth look forward to joining, Voisin said.

The April 7 meeting will be held at 3 p.m. at the GRYC headquarters, 59-03 Summerfield St. in Ridgewood.

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