San Antonio Sound Garden: a nonprofit growing a new type of sustainable living in the Alamo city.
In a small front office space at 723 N. Alamo St., big ideas float around the room.
Among the circle of people gathered, the ideas raised range from poster distribution to a local musician’s work. Impassioned voices discuss publicizing the organization while side conversations about inner workings of future events develop. Flyers and other handouts are passed around. The atmosphere is casual, with people laughing on couches and leaning on desks.
Welcome to San Antonio Sound Garden (SASG). Specifically, one of SASG’s Street Squad Sessions.
Not so different from your local backyard or community garden, SASG is a nonprofit aimed at growing a sustainable music economy in San Antonio. This garden is situated behind the small front office in the form of a warehouse. With this space, the nonprofit hopes to cultivate a strong, sustainable music economy for San Antonio.
Currently, local SA musicians typically are forced to face an ultimatum: stay in San Antonio or take their talent elsewhere (most likely Austin) to advance their music careers. Most artists choose the latter and head north on I-35.
SASG hopes to solve this musical migration by helping local musicians overcome common financial and resource-related barriers. This includes providing subsidized services ranging from office space with WiFi, reasonably priced recording space, networking and mentoring opportunities to marketing assistance.
Despite its wide range of services, SASG isn’t an organization that likes to turn anything or anyone down. The team of people running the organization is comprised of all kinds of San Antonians (their CFO being UTSA alumnus, Noah Breeden) with one common bond: a love of music and a desire to keep local artists thriving.
The capital campaign, “One Seed Is All It Takes,” speaks to this objective.
“Now I want you to imagine yourself 20 years from now,” said Edwin Stephens, founder of SASG, in their capital campaign video. “Our music scene is thriving, people you may have passed by in your neighborhood years ago are making waves in the music industry. Our city is electric. Look back from then and ask yourself, ‘I was there when all of this was happening, but was I a part of it?’”
Las Raices (“The Roots” in Spanish) is another effort SASG is taking to cultivate their garden. The monthly music forum allows those in the SA music scene to gather and share their ideas. The forum, geared toward strengthening the roots of the music community, is open to all San Antonians.
SASG heightens the importance of the individual. Each “seed” or person involved is shown as adding to the growth of not only the SA music scene, but the economy. One “seed” being District 7 Councilman Cris Medina.
Medina, a musician himself, secured $25,000 of the FY2017 City of San Antonio budget this past September to “assist SASG with a comprehensive plan as part of our ongoing effort to develop San Antonio’s untapped music economy.”
While 2017 is poised to be a year of growth for SASG, the nonprofit wrapped up 2016 with what they know best: a showcase of local talent. Their official launch/workspace renovation celebration was hosted at Alamo Beer Company this past November.
The event, dubbed 11/11, showcased 10 different San Antonio artists and bands. The event included local talents ranging from Amea (R&B/Soul) to The Dirty River Dixie Band (Dixieland/jazz). The audience then voted for the top three artists or bands.
First place, SASG’s 2017 Showcase Artist, went to indie/soul band The Foreign Arm, while two bands — The Lost Project and The Dirty River Dixie Band — tied for second place. All positions won different levels of production packages from SASG that will assist the bands in either recording/releasing music, or with other projects, such as business strategy or public relations for the band.
SASG’s 11/11 event was able to showcase the talent of local musicians as well as the nonprofit’s ability to cultivate a colorful garden.
As for the organization’s involvement with UTSA, Adam Tutor, SASG’s Community Outreach Director, expands on the future of working with UTSA students.
“If we’re growing local music, we just can’t start at our age, we have to start with high school and college kids,” Tutor says. “We’re always looking for individuals who want to get their voice or hands involved.”
One of Tutor’s goals for 2017 is to form a group of UTSA students wishing to collaborate with SASG — musicians and business people alike.
Dylan Ilseng is an example of this potential SASG-UTSA partnership. Ilseng is a UTSA senior music marketing major, musician and president of Musicians of Business (MOB). His band RANCH \ HOUSE played at SASG’s 11/11 event.
“I’ve known Adam for a few years…but UTSA’s Music Biz Day really put them (SASG) on my radar,” Ilseng says. “This past semester we’ve made a connection with them (SASG) and a couple of our students volunteered at their 11/11 event. We haven’t done a whole lot yet, but will definitely in this next semester.”
Ilseng notes that people have been fairly receptive of SASG. He notes that UTSA students in particular will be excited once they hear more about the organization.
“There will always be people who oppose everything, especially with a group like Sound Garden who are receiving money from the city,” Ilseng noted. “And some people are a little hesitant about that, but I think it (SASG) will not only grow it (the music economy), but unite the existing culture.”
Ilseng also expanded on how the music economy would look without SASG. “It (the current music economy) is decent, but it’s pretty spread out,” he said. “There’s kind of a disconnect between the scenes and maybe a little animosity between people in different groups. So I feel Sound Garden has been uniting everyone for one cause.”
When you first hear about SASG, their mission and ambitious dreams, it’s easy to write it all off as a fantasy. Making San Antonio a successful music hub — enough to compete with Austin — is a hefty task, but one Tutor embraces with a smile: “We (SASG) are excited about it.”
Yet, when looking at the SASG’s showcase, you get it. Seeing a variety of bands from all different genres play while people animatedly dance, drink and smile — the garden is in full bloom.
To get involved with SASG contact Community Outreach Director Adam Tutor at adam.sasoundgarden.org and visit www.sasoundgarsen.org.