Photos by Wes Jerdon/Westley Leon Studios
If someone was to look into the window of the building the corner of Western and Michigan in South Bend, they might see a crowd of dancers swaying their hips to a melody and stomping their feet to a beat. On a different day, they might see a cello player inspecting his bow, a bass player tuning their strings or a singer working her vocal cords to reach a particularly difficult note.
The options are nearly endless at the Music Village, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to growing the musical arts in the greater South Bend area.
With its roots in downtown South Bend, the Music Village is a music school and community arts center that offers a diverse range of music classes — everything from piano to banjo to accordion to dance and much more. The village provides community events such as its jam sessions and community outreach programs through the school system and other organizations.
“The mission is growing community through music and the arts,” says Mark Rackow, secretary of the Music Village board of directors. “The Music Village does lessons. We do outreach. We partner with other organizations. We just do a lot of really cool stuff in the community.”
“We have a lot of great programming where people can enrich their lives,” adds Executive Director Josh Aerie. “We offer an open door and an outlet for people to express themselves.”
Both donning bright blue T-shirts printed with the Music Village logo, Josh and Mark say that the Music Village is a different kind of nonprofit — a place where anyone regardless of ability or walk of life can enjoy and learn music, a place where building community is a priority. At least, that is what the organization was for them.
Both musicians that came to South Bend from other cities — Mark a drummer from Chicago and Josh a cellist from Duluth, Minnesota — they were looking for a place to belong when they came to the area. The Music Village, with its dedication to community growth, became that place for them and allowed them to get involved in the community and share their talents with the city.
“To me, it’s a no brainer that a thriving downtown would have something to do with arts and music, so I’m glad South Bend has [the Music Village],” Mark says. “I think it’s super important for people to continue to have the opportunity to play music — that can be life-changing. Music is good for the soul, for the brain, for the heart. The Music Village gives that opportunity to keep playing music for young and old.”
“South Bend has such a rich tradition in music whether it be in the school or it be in the great bands that have come and gone,” Josh adds. “With the downtown revitalization that has been happening in South Bend over the last few years, the arts and culture have grown with it. To bring more arts and culture for everyone — whether it is education or people just coming to listen and jam —that’s what we are all about.”
The music scene in South Bend is not the only thing that is growing. Last year, Music Village grew as well by moving into a larger space on Michigan Street. The new facility tripled the floor space the organization had in the basement of the JMS building, 108 N. Main St., where Music Village began operations in 2012.
When they first started, Music Village only had a few students, but now serves hundreds through classes and community programming. According to Josh, the move has allowed Music Village to further its mission and serve more community members.
“It gives us a greater physical capacity to serve the community through lessons, and it gives us greater visibility in the community,” he says. “We’ve got a great facility with spaces for lessons, music therapy and performance.”
As the Music Village continues to move into the future, both Josh and Mark say they want to see the village keep their momentum of growth going strong so the organization can continue to foster a love of music in the South Bend community.
We want to continue to grow and continue to do good things in our community,” Josh says. “Music is so important to our growth — physically and mentally. It enriches our lives and helps us get in touch with the people around us through a very special medium, which is music. We want to be able to provide an opportunity for people to be able to experience that.”
The Music Village is located at 333 S. Michigan St., South Bend. Learn more at the musicvillage.org or by calling (574) 245-7664.