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‘Man, it’s actually here’: Teen musician eager for Eastside Community Center – and its recording studio

August 1, 2018


SOTA student helped with studio’s planning; center open in the fall
 

Matthew Etienne was a First Creek Middle School eighth grader when he first heard talk about plans for a community center on the campus.

“I didn’t think it was going to happen,” said Matthew, now 16, and about to begin his junior year at Tacoma’s School of the Arts.

Matthew, the youngest of six children, lives within walking distance from the shiny, soon-to-be-complete community center near the corner of Portland Avenue and East 56th Street, on the campus of his former middle school. His mother, Sherrie, can’t wait for the center to open. She said kids like her son, a budding musician, need a neighborhood place to go.

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The lure for Matthew, and the reason he found out about the community center in the first place, is the sound recording studio that occupies a small corner spot on the northeast side of the building.

As an eighth grader, he was recruited to join other youngsters asked to contribute to the studio-planning process. They visited a local recording studio and looked at instruments and equipment. The group also produced a rap, which they performed at a fundraiser for the Greater Metro Parks Foundation, one of the driving forces behind the creation of the center.

“I’m looking forward to the studio because as soon as that studio gets up, it’s over,” Matthew said during a recent tour of the construction site. “I’m going to record an album. It’s coming.”

Sherrie Etienne, who has lived on the Eastside for 17 years, said the need for a community center is obvious. She’s watched kids roll aimlessly around the neighborhood on their bikes because they had nothing else to do.

A lot of Matthew’s peers don’t have a place to go or parents to guide them, he said. At the new community center, they can feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. Its opening later this year will be the realization of what only a few years ago was simply a dream.

Matthew could hardly contain his enthusiasm when he toured the building. “It means so much. ... It’s such a big deal. ... It’s for everybody,” he said. “It really touches my heart to see that somebody actually cares about the Eastside, and about the kids.

“Man, it’s actually here. We actually have somewhere to go. We don’t have to be on the streets.”

Matthew has always been musical, his mother said. Even before he was born, she noticed that he responded to drum beats in the music during church. When he was about 18 months old, he picked up a stick and began banging on his older brother’s drum set. Now, he’s free to play a set in his family’s garage and regularly at church. He uses SOTA’s recording studio during the school year.

The studio in Eastside Community Center will be available for booking by the public after school hours and all year round.

“We’ve got so many kids around here with talent,” Sherrie Etienne said. “A lot of them don’t know the abilities they have. With a music studio, you never know what doors you may open up for kids.”

Once the center opens, Matthew said, he’ll encourage all kinds of people to visit the center. “I’m bringing everybody, even my mom!”

About Eastside Community Center

The $31 million, 55,000-square-foot  Eastside Community Center opens this fall at 1721 E. 56th St. The center’s amenities include a multi-use gymnasium, sound recording studio, social hall, culinary kitchen, weight room and cardio-fitness areas, and a large pool with a party room, lap lanes, diving board and hot tub/spa. The building is expected to attract as many as 350,000 users annually, including some 200 youngsters each weekday through programs of the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound.

The project is a partnership involving Metro Parks Tacoma, the City of Tacoma, Tacoma Public Schools, Tacoma Housing Authority, the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound, the Greater Metro Parks Foundation and The Billy Ray Shirley III Foundation.

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