Teens given the gift of music by Saint John union members

Teenagers looking for a space to express their musical side in Saint John’s south-end were surprised Friday with the unveiling of a fully stocked music room, which was created in secret.

Electrical union donates labour and thousands of dollars to open music room at Teen Resource Centre.

IBEW Local 502 secretly helped turn an old computer room into a music room at the Teen Resource Centre. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Teenagers looking for a space to express their musical side in Saint John's south-end were surprised Friday with the unveiling of a fully stocked music room, which was created in secret.

The Teen Resource Centre (TRC) in the city's Waterloo Village is known for being a safe place for teens. It offers counselling, assistance with school work, and for many, a place to hang out after school.

The new room, fully stocked with guitars, drums, keyboards, and amps was unveiled to the teens before the annual holiday meal Friday.

For the past eight weeks, the centre's former computer room was blocked-off for what most thought was routine maintenance. But after hours on the weekends, members of the IBEW Local 502 were secretly transforming the area into a new music room.

Union member Eamon Clarke said he and several other volunteers did the majority of the work over their weekends. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Eamon Clarke said about six months ago his union began speaking with the TRC with the idea of creating the space. Over the past eight weeks, 13 members of the union donated over 300 hours of their time to construct the room.

"We worked on it Friday, Saturday, Sundays, whenever opportunities arose," he said. The thought of all the kids who will benefit from the opportunity he said, makes all the work worthwhile.

"It's amazing, we're hoping to provide them opportunities some of them might not of had," said Clarke.

The project was kept a secret from most of the teens who use the centre, but Brandon McCluskey was allowed a sneak peak to help test the equipment. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Brandon McCluskey has been coming to the TRC for over a year and helped test some of the instruments before it opened. He's sure the other kids will love the room.

"We didn't have like any instruments to play really," said McCluskey. "I feel like now that there's like actually something for us, everyone will appreciate it."

"It's 100 per cent more than what we thought it would be," said June Breau-Nason. Even though the executive director of the TRC knew was aware of the project, she still finds herself marvelling at the amount of instruments now available.

TRC Executive Director June Breau-Nason said while the room is worth thousands of dollars, the value for the teens who now have a chance to play music is priceless. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Through fundraising efforts, the union's contribution to the project was more than $11,000. But Breau-Nason said the value for the talented teens who now have a place to play, is harder to measure.

"I think having an opportunity for youth to come and literally try so many different instruments is priceless."

Breau-Nason said it was a tough secret to keep, because the teens who use the centre daily were obviously curious.

"We wanted to have a Christmas surprise for them" she said.

Sure enough, as the teenagers were let into the room, the squeals of delight were a sure sign of it being a hit. Before unveiling the studio, Clarke had only one request of the them: a performance one year from now. 

Some of the members of IBEW 502 who made the music studio possible were on-hand for the official unveiling. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)