The music business is nothing but glitz, glamor and glory. Sure, it might look that way to aspiring performers. But they're in for plenty of peaks and valleys, lots of hard work and the strong possibility of not exactly making it big.
One Pittsburgh musician who's gained an international following is happy to pass along her perspective. Liz Berlin, singer and percussionist for the Platinum Award-winning rock band Rusted Root, has just completed her 10th Real.Life.Music Camp, in which she and other industry professionals help prepare youngsters for the challenges they're bound to face.
"I feel like I've been through a lot in my career, and I'd like to share the reality of what it means to be in the music business," says Liz. "We take them into the studio, teach them how to write songs, prepare for recording, go through recording, and we have a lot of workshops about the music industry, how to promote and book shows."
The annual five-day camp culminates with a concert at Mr. Small's Theatre in Millvale, which Liz co-owns. This year's performance was Aug. 17, with campers performing all original compositions. Participants usually are in the 14-to-18 age range, but others who want to learn are welcome. "Ten is the youngest I've had, all the way up to 26," Liz says. About the latter: "She had a master's degree in operatic voice. She came to my camp because she wanted to learn how to write songs."
Some musicians have completed the camp ready to rock. One example is the band Lightning Box, the members of which came together during the 2008 edition of Real.Life.Music. Lightning Box will join other acts at the 2012 Allegheny County Music Festival, which starts at 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 26, at Hartwood Acres Park. Rusted Root is scheduled to perform at 7:30. Also on the bill are more of Liz's proteges.
"I have another program called the We Rock Workshop," Liz says. "The whole point is to help foster kids to be able to do extracurricular things they want to do, like music and sports." Participants from this year's We Rock Workshop, which ended in May with another Mr. Small's concert, will be among Sunday's opening performers. Others include Pittsburgh vocalist J’Aira and band The Red Western.
Rusted Root is making its fifth appearance headlining the festival, which benefits the Allegheny County Music Festival Fund. Established in 2000 by then-Family Court Judge Max Baer and Department of Human Services director Marc Cherna, the fund pays for life-enriching opportunities such as:
- A week of “live-in” summer camp for at-risk young persons to allow them to engage in healthy activities outside their neighborhood
- Lessons in dance, karate, music and other positive outlets for self-expression for a child who is living in a homeless shelter
- The opportunity for a child receiving mental health services to spend quality time with his or her family at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium or the National Aviary
- The opportunity for a young man or woman, transitioning into adulthood, to attend a college tour and set the course for his or her future
Candidates’ Comedy Night, held this year on Aug. 16, has benefited the fund since 2008.