‘It’s a spark’ : How the GroundUP Music Festival connects artists to young Miami musicians

The GroundUP Music Festival has always encouraged musicians to be free flowing and has brought the community and its experiences into the music and up close and personal with artists. And going into year four, they’ve continued to offer classes and workshops for the public to learn from and jam along with musicians and bands. 

But Zach Lermer, from Miami’s Young Musicians Unite organization, said that the organizers have taken the added step in recent years to extend that experience to local young musicians.

“We have a lot of students who are jazz musicians so it might not even be the bigger names that they’re excited about,” Zach said. “So whether it’s a big name or someone that they just know, it’s cool to let them experience that level of musicianship.”

And tomorrow — before the festival gets going this weekend — students from Young Musicians Unite, Guitars over Guns, and the Frost School of Music will have the opportunity to learn from and with some of the artists on the bill.

The artists doing the masterclass with the students include: Yissy García and Bandancha, Chris Potter, Alina Engibaryan, and Michael League. Zach says the students will first get a chance to see an open rehearsal with the artists and then have a chance to ask questions directly to Michael and Yissy before participating in a masterclass from Yissy.

“So they get to observe for a little while and then they have some time to actually talk to the artists,” Zach said.

And that kind of hands-on experience has been valuable for students and local volunteers, too, including alumni from organizations like Guitars Over Guns. Caleb Alcime was a student musician with Guitars over Guns and now serves as a program associate. He’s been volunteering at GroundUP for years and said the staff treats him and other volunteers like “family.” 

He also said that the experience has helped to shape his career aspirations.

“It’s a spark. Everybody needs that fuel to really be able to understand why they do what they do,” Caleb said. “Being so close showed me that they’re human beings as well and being up close and personal helped me understand that this is possible, and this is the hard work it takes.”

Young Musicians Unite and Guitars over Guns have both reached thousands of students and provided music education both in and out of schools across Miami. But both Zach and Caleb noted that there’s something unique about being able to give the students a chance to meet artists that they “idolize” through the GroundUP fest.

“Some of our students who are going to get to see Chris Potter rehearse — some of those kids are playing Chris Potter songs in our program,” Zach said. “To put them in a live experience, ten feet away from these people in a rehearsal setting, and playing at an inspiring level, opens the door for these kids.”