Studio big hit with students

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COLUMBIA - Columbia students have formed 16 bands, recorded 18 songs, and exceeded expectations over the past year. Soon, their bands will have the opportunity to perform live in front of a real crowd, thanks to a local student- based recording studio.

Seven bands will get their first shot at a real concert at an event, sponsored by Darkroom Records.

Darkroom Records Grand Opening Ceremony,” will be held at The Social Room in downtown Columbia on Feb. 18 from 6-9 p.m. Students will be accepting voluntary donations in the $5.00 - $10.00 range upon entry.

Dark Room Records is a free-to-use recording studio open to all students enrolled in Columbia Public Schools. Located at Hickman High School, the studio officially opened its doors to students last March.

David Aulgur, the coordinator of Dark Room Records and a teacher at Gentry Middle School, said he is amazed by the amount of student engagement he’s seen.

"This year has been amazing. I could have never anticipated that we would be at this point,” Aulgur said. “We planned on being open three days a week, but demand has meant that we're here every day."

Rock Bridge senior Jazz White is one of several students receiving class credit for her work at the studio. She plans on studying studio engineering in college, and said the studio has provided her with valuable experience.

"Before I discovered Dark Room, I hadn't known what exactly I wanted to do in school, in college for my degree in terms of music, and it really helped me figure out that this is what I want to study,” she said.

White said the studio also provides a platform for students from all walks of life to bond with each other through music.

"I think it's really nice to be around people who are interested in the same thing as you are, because in high school it's so hard to find a group of people who have the same interests as you,” she said. 

Claire Nieder plays in the same band as White. She’s a sophomore at Hickman, and has been singing for more than five years. She said the studio is her favorite part of high school. 

"This is what I look forward to every week,” She said. “Honestly, it's just a break from everything else that's going on in your life, being able to hang out with people and record. It's just something that I look forward to."

Dark Room Records co-founder Jordan Smith said the studio has been so popular, it needs more equipment to meet student needs.

"We want to use the funds that we hopefully raise at the grand opening to extend the opportunities we have in the studio; so, better equipment, and a better possibility for students to use equipment that they don't have access to at home," Smith said.

Some local recording studios can charge from $40 an hour to $2000 a week, Smith said.

Hickman sophomore Jacob Sobaski said he appreciates all of the opportunities Dark Room Records is giving Columbia students.

"This is art. This is a great way to express yourself through music because music is a super powerful thing, especially for kids who are, like, becoming adults. There's stress, or they can be like depressed or something,” Sobaski said.

Aulgur said there’s a saying around Dark Room Records that encapsulates the accepting environment.

“There’s no such thing as bad music, just music you like you and don't like,” Aulgur said.

At the concert, Darkroom Records will be selling a compilation CD for a suggested donation of $10.00. The CD consists of songs recorded in-studio by several different student-run bands.

Food will be served before the concert, which can be streamed live through Live-it-Now.

[Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the location of Darkroom Records Grand Opening Ceremony.]

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