With a quick succession of beeps, the Blue Line train car closed its doors and initiated its rumble past the California stop placard. As it gained momentum pushing its cacophonous announcement toward the Western Avenue stop, two girls swing open a glass door to Red Cloud Studio, a new fixture on California Avenue kiddie-corner to the L entrance at Milwaukee Ave.
As the train’s wail receded, the girls greeted their teacher, Molly Blythe, with a hug and a chorus of hellos and laughter filling the modest-sized studio. The three were meeting to prepare discussing their passion for music and why a youth-inspired, music-focused, creative space is so valuable to the Logan Square community. And LoganSquarist was first to hear their song.
“I’m humbled that all I have to do is open the door, and they want the space,” said Blythe about opening up Red Cloud Studio for the community’s kids and adults alike. “They want the freedom to try something new, to risk singing in front of people, to play, and if this wasn’t here, they wouldn’t have gotten the chance.”
Blythe begrudgingly abandoned pursuing a career within the professional music industry and accepted a music teaching position, moving her to Logan Square from a small town in Iowa. Within her first year at St. John Berchman’s School on West Logan Blvd., she knew teaching was her calling.
“After that first Christmas show,” Blythe said with a sigh and her voice cracking, “I thought ‘this is the best job in the world.’ There was no looking back after that one.”
And she didn’t. Now four years later, she’s expanded her side private lessons business into Red Cloud Studio, a full-service music space intended to provide the community a fun environment to immerse themselves in their musical curiosities.
“It’s just really fun, and I just like hearing the piano,” said Olivia Garza, 10. “I chose to play [after] my friend kept talking about her just playing piano and then a lot of people in my class [were] playing piano, so I thought it would be pretty fun and I wanted to start.”
Born and raised in Chicago, Garza said her favorite song is a Windy City favorite: “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” A song that has taken a few weeks to learn because “whenever I practice with a friend, we break out into laughter every five minutes,” she said showing-off her new two new adult teeth peppering an otherwise small mouth. “It’s just a lot of fun.”
“I’m trying to let the studio evolve and just do what I know,” said Blythe. “If I’m giving the kids a space where they learn to love the process of practicing and learning a new thing, then that’s everything. “I didn’t know this was going to work, I didn’t think it would go that way, but I love it.”
Opening in June, the studio services 30 current students and is still accepting students for its fall session. Classes are for piano and voice and are either 30 minutes or an hour. They’re also open to all ages, with her current eldest of 30 students being 45 years old and her youngest being 3 years old.
“You feel very comfortable, like it’s okay to mess up,” said Jocelyn Guerra, 14. “She always says, ‘learning from your mistakes is the only way get better.’ I like that I have someone like her.”
Being viewed as a role model is a responsibility Blythe never expected, but appreciates and takes seriously, each day.
“I just feel like that’s, that’s too much,” Blythe said as her eyes welled up. “I feel like, ‘how did get put in that place?’ That’s really sweet to hear. It means a lot to me.”
More than lessons, Blythe wants the kids, parents and adult students to feel like Red Cloud Studio is just as much their musical playground as it is hers.
With open mic nights, performances after each 12-week session completes and free days for kids to come and play like the Von Trapps, the space offers something for everyone.
The next open mic night is Friday October, 14 and is open to the community and to anyone who’d like to share their voice or musical gifts.
In a community that’s under a constant, rapid facelift, Blythe wants Red Cloud Studio to be seen as a place of stability.
“We’re here to stay,” Blythe said. “My hope is that it just encourages people to just be more opened up. Especially for kids, for them to know they have that inside of them and for everyone else to know that, it’s super inspiring.”