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Innovation & Job News

Philly Music Lab connects local musicians to each other and to gigs

The Head & the Hand House Band performs

A year ago, Samantha Wittchen and her friend Alexandra Cutler-Fetkewicz were discussing the state of music in Philadelphia. Wittchen is a professional harpist (and occasional Flying Kite contributor) and Cutler-Fetkewicz a professional violinist. They attended music school together, and saw how different things were in the real world versus the traditional world of music education. 

"We were chatting about the fact that a lot of people were playing music that crossed genres," recalls Wittchen.

She and Cutler-Fetkewicz saw these artists struggling to build audiences, book paid performances and run their businesses. They thought, "Maybe we should do something about this." Several months later, the pair founded Philly Music Lab, a registered LLC that will operate almost like a nonprofit to help musicians meet each other and get gigs. They hosted their first happy hour event on May 28 at Bottle Bar East in Fishtown. 

Philly Music Lab will generate income for its three founders -- Wittchen, Cutler-Fetkewicz and "Chief Polka Officer" Dan Nosheny -- and fund its continued works in the local music scene by booking gigs for musicians. Not only do musicians struggle to find those perfect-for-them performances, but those looking to hire cross-genre or small genre musicians -- for something like a party or wedding -- didn't really have a place to find them. 

"More of these organizations and individuals doing bookings were looking for these kinds of artists, and we saw there really isn't any other infrastructure for these people looking for cross-genre musicians," explains Wittchen.

There is a third component planned for Philly Music Lab: an education arm that will allow musicians to learn about other genres and the business of being a musician. The organization needs to find and fund a space in which to teach these classes. Wittchen anticipates they will cost some money but much less than music courses at local colleges. 

"One of the holes we see in the musical education system in Philly is a lack of programming to teach musicians about unusual genres," she argues. "If you did happen to find a program, you'd probably have to matriculate at the cost of hundreds or thousands of dollars."

For now, Philly Music Lab is focused on figuring out its schedule of happy hours and quarterly showcases to introduce musicians to those booking gigs. Up next is another event planned for July. Stay tuned to their Twitter feed for details.

Writer: Rosella LaFevre
Source: ?Samantha Wittchen, Philly Music Lab
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