Spy Hop: Hands-On Music and Multimedia Experience for Kids in Utah | Reverb Gives

Spy Hop

Reverb Gives provides students, teachers, and leaders of music programs with the instruments that they need, directly from the Reverb marketplace. Since its launch, Reverb Gives has had the opportunity to help support a variety of remarkable organizations committed to making the world a more musical place.

Jeremy Chatelain

With so many unique missions, all revolving around music and music education, we wanted to take the opportunity to spotlight some of these organizations, detailing their cause and highlighting the great work that they’re doing with music.

Today, we’re speaking with the musical arts mentor of a youth media organization in Salt Lake City called Spy Hop, Jeremy Chatelain. Jeremy talked with us about the organization’s mission—to mentor young people in the digital media arts to help them find their voice, tell their stories, and be empowered to affect positive change in their lives, communities, and the world. Continue reading below to learn more about the work Spy Hop is doing and how you can get involved.

What is Spy Hop? Can you give some insight into the history of organization, and a bit about your journey with the cause?

Spy Hop has been around since 1999, running after-school and community programming in film, music, digital design, and audio engineering. Spy Hop was conceived by two high school friends who had an interest in teaching teens storytelling and film. What they did not anticipate was the positive effect that it had on the students' school and home life.

I started at Spy Hop in 2008 as the Musical Arts Instructor, which entailed running an independent record label with teenagers at the helm, and starting a year-long band class to make albums and perform around the city. I’ve been here for 10 years and have helped expand the opportunities at Spy Hop for kids who are interested in hip-hop production, songwriting, filmmaking, and design.

What are the backgrounds of the instructors and mentors at Spy Hop?

There are eight full-time artist mentors at Spy Hop who all came from a background in the specific medium they teach. We have podcasters, radio DJs, musicians, designers, code writers, filmmakers, and people from a youth corrections background. Each mentor has been chosen carefully and groomed for youth development by our amazing staff here.

How about the youth? Do they generally have music experience beforehand or are there lots of beginners? How do they get involved?

I personally teach kids of all skill levels, from beginning songwriters who don’t play any instruments to kids who are starting college and are really proficient on their instruments and with their songwriting skills. We run a tiered programming system, so there is room for everybody. We even have an apprenticeship program that gives kids the opportunity to work on their specific job skills while making media and taking on real clients from the community. It’s a great resume booster.

We do outreach in high schools, at local events, and run programs around the state to find potential candidates for our programs. We are also running programs in schools and different youth care facilities around the state, so some of our students find us that way too. And some of our programs are free for kids to walk in and participate without any prior involvement at Spy Hop.

What kinds of programs does Spy Hop have? Can you talk about any workshops, recordings, performances, etc. that Spy Hop hosts/facilitates?

Spy Hop runs close to 50 programs a year in our facility and throughout the state of Utah. The programs are connected to all of our mediums—film, audio, music, and design—and we run community programs that are also youth media-based in other facilities around Salt Lake. For instance, we run a podcasting program featuring stories, poems, and songs from youth-in-custody called “Sending Messages.” The program has been producing podcasts for nine years and has over 60 episodes in its back catalog.

We also run year-long documentary and fiction film programs called “PitchNic” for kids interested in writing, casting, shooting, and premiering films. I run a music production and event coordination program called “801 Sessions” with a group of high performing teens. In 801, we book local youth bands at all-ages clubs, promote the shows, help run the clubs, and create high-quality videos of all the featured bands to post on 801sessions.com each month.

We also run a free, walk-in program called “Open Mic” where kids can get hands-on experience with Ableton Live, Pro Tools, songwriting, rapping, and audio engineering each Friday throughout the year. Each of our programs culminates in a finished project and often a screening, concert or celebration party to showcase all of the student work.

Are there any recent events you'd like to highlight or upcoming events you'd like to promote?

We just celebrated our Musicology, Resonate, and Loud & Clear music programs with a summer concert called the Heatwave Festival. We had about 400 people in attendance at a really beautiful place called Red Butte Amphitheater. We featured three student bands playing all of the original music they composed this year, and Flat Moon Theory—our Musicology band—celebrated the release of their nine-song album.

The next large event we produce will be the Pitch-Nic film premier in November. At Spy Hop, we love the student work to live beyond the program and be celebrated by the community and accessible to the world.

How is Reverb Gives helping to contribute to Rock to Recovery's mission? How can others get involved?

Through the amazing Reverb Gives donation, we were able to purchase gear that was immediately put to use by our 801 Sessions, Musicology, Open Mic, Woodshedding, and Resonate programs. In donating this gear, Reverb is helping our students and youth producers to tell their stories, write their songs, and finish projects with a greater production value to share with the world at large. We’re grateful for the generosity of Reverb.

To check out our students’ work, you can head to the Spy Hop and 801 Sessions websites, where you’ll also be able to learn more about the organization and our upcoming events and give your support.

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