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By Devin Rose
Wires are used to transfer information, says Oak Park resident and musician Chris Neville. They connect guitars to amplifiers and microphones to speakers.
So Neville, a member of the band Tributosaurus, and four of his business partners who are also in the music industry, thought that WIRE would be the perfect unifying name for what will be a new music complex on the Berwyn side of Roosevelt Road.
The partners bought the building at 6815 Roosevelt Road late last month, and plan to turn it into a space where musicians of all ages and abilities can learn from each other. Neville said he began thinking about the WIRE concept about five years ago because he noticed there had been fewer opportunities for spontaneous collaboration in the music industry.
"The trend in music was for everybody to work alone in their basement," Neville said, which led to artistic isolation. There weren't a lot of spaces for musicians to congregate.
But when renovations are complete at WIRE, musicians will have about 10,000 square feet to work in. There will be a performance venue in the front, Neville said, where the style of music will be "pretty open-ended." There will also be a couple of recording studios, smaller composition suites and a school with classes that follow a "rock curriculum."
Neville and his business partners will teach weekly individual music lessons, as well as recording and composition. They'll have classes for bands, too, and will probably offer certification classes in lighting and sound production.
Memberships will be available to aspiring musicians who hope to turn their skills into a career. Members will get access to a VIP lounge in the venue and will work on a project every year, like producing a song for an anniversary with their significant other.
"Our model would be the lawyer guitar player," Neville said, referring to someone who spends money on gear and takes lessons, but would like better access to a professional environment, outside of their day job.
By putting musicians with different focuses and skill levels under one roof, Neville is hoping to see some interesting things happen. The community they create would "broaden the way the industry thinks about itself."
Neville said another goal is to help revitalize part of Roosevelt Road. The building was a movie theater from the 1920s to the 1970s before the Teamsters took it over.
"Handled correctly, that could be a real destination," he said, adding that organizers hope to partner with surrounding businesses and offer deals.
Tony Griffin, executive director of the Berwyn Development Corporation, noted the building has "really good design elements." He worked with the group to identify the site.
The partners are still working on developing the curriculum and looking for teachers within their Chicago music network, Neville said. They hope to start interior demolition this month with a goal to open in the fall.