Muncie bands blast off from The Launching Pad 

All-ages, non-profit venue opened last year

Pick a weekend night to walk a little beyond the well-trod paths and oft-visited restaurants in Muncie’s Village (that collection of bars and restaurants near the Ball State campus). Cross a large parking lot behind the University Square building and you’ll come across a low-slung garage bearing a modish “LP” logo, surrounded by a bunch of high-schoolers. That LP stands for The Launching Pad, an all-ages, volunteer-run, non-profit venue where area bands are finding a place to play, and where a youthful music community is taking root.

Since it opened in September 2006, The Launching Pad has hosted many popular local and national acts, including Gwen Stacy, Rookie of the Year and Everything, Now! It has also seen visits by major label artists Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s (Epic Records) and AbentStar (Columbia Records).

“Every single touring band has enjoyed the venue and have told us what an amazing place it is compared to other venues they go to.” says founder Alan Maugherman, who is also a Ball State professor and adolescent psychiatrist. For Maugherham, the venue is the culmination of years of innovative work with aspiring rock stars.

Rock ’n’ roll summer camp

While working with young people at his therapy practice, Maugherman noticed that while quite a few kids play an instrument at home, they hadn’t been able to meet up with other musicians of their age. To solve that problem, Maugherman decided to create a sort of rock and roll summer camp called the Young Musician’s Club. 2007 was the third summer for the program and enrollment has nearly doubled each year.

Start-up money for instruments and other gear came from the Delaware County Community Foundation, but the program is currently self-sufficient and remains volunteer run.

Success stories abound: The band Dreams of University graduated from the program and, though still in high school, have released a CD on a record label funded by Maugherman. “I felt confident they were such a good band that we could make a profitable record,” Maugherman says, adding that it took the band less than three months to sell enough to pay if off. The band keeps 75 percent of the profits with the remainder going towards financing future recordings.

According to Maugherman, the idea to open a venue came from the fact that so many good bands came out of the Young Musician’s Club, but had few places to actually play.

Bands who come out of the program can also use the venue for rehearsals in exchange for working at the shows. Dreams of University even helped to build the stage and paint the venue.

Repairs and upkeep

The Launching Pad currently receives promotional help from campus radio station WCRD. This summer, two interns from Ball State helped bands make web sites and shoot videos. Maugherman says he is looking forward to more partnerships with the university.

Due to his busy schedule, Maugherman recently turned over operation of the venue to the Full Circle Arts Cooperative, a non-profit whose resources will allow the venue to stay open four nights a week. Though the venue is relatively successful, they still operate on a show-to-show basis, making just enough to pay the rent. Proceeds from a Dec. 14 fund-raiser are expected to help build a small reserve for emergencies and renovations.

Weekly meetings are open to anyone in the community who’s interested and additional show listings can be found on the MySpace page: More info:

WHERE: The Launching Pad, 1609 W. University, Muncie, Ind.


Friday, Jan. 4: Rodeo Ruby Love, Sgt. Schepper, The Bells and Whistles, I am Band, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 5: The Widow Jenkins, Corporate Circus, In the Face of War, Zephyr, 8 p.m.

Upcoming shows:

Sunday, Jan. 13: Talk of the Town (Sacramento), A Kidnap in Color (Chicago), The PB&J’s, Between the Rooms, Future Nature, Jaiben, 6 p.m., $8 pre-sale, $10 at the door

Saturday, Jan. 19: Ghost of Maine, Trenches, Amarna Reign, Saints Never Surrender, Fill in the Blank, 7 p.m., $7

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