Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

New Port Richey Library offers budding teen rock musicians a place to jam


They start straggling in a little after 3 p.m. when school's out for the day. A few have guitars slung over their shoulders. Others simply bring their voices and an eagerness to share the stage with like-minded kids.

Music is the bond that connects the 15 to 25 kids that frequent the place: from the long-haired heavy metal screamers, to the International Baccalaureate kid with the awesome voice and two-tone blue electric guitar she got for her eighth-grade graduation, to the slight ponytailed 10-year-old drum aficionado who was brought up on Led Zeppelin and Elvis Presley but counts Taylor Swift as her all-time fave.

They always show up early, said Ghelder Arriaga, the youth librarian who runs things. But the kids have to wait, maybe check out some books or read over lyrics, because no one enters the upstairs community room until Arriaga is done setting up the mikes, the mixer, the sound system and the musical video game Rockband for kids who are too shy to sing or play on their own.

Then, as soon as the clock strikes 4, the purple neon "Open" sign is flipped on, and the Garage Jam session starts at the New Port Richey Library.

For the next two hours the music of today's youth (and sometimes their parents' youth) reverberates through the brick building on Main Street as patrons quietly peruse bookshelves upstairs and down or surf the Web on computers.

It's a different kind of mix to be sure, but times have changed. Libraries have evolved to meet the needs of all their patrons.

The youth jam sessions, held Wednesdays three times a month, are the brainstorm of Arriaga, who thought it would be a good way to use the library's equipment while reaching out to the younger generation.

"As a librarian, one of the things we want to do is expose them to all the arts — traditional art, music, theater — because we have a lot of material here for them," Arriaga said. "I think more teens would go to the library if there were more venues for them."

The first Garage Jam was held in November to highlight the new youth music collection purchased by the library's teen council. The sessions evolved from that, Arriaga said.

"I thought back to my own youth, growing up in New York, and how we would put together these bands. Whoever had an empty basement, that was the place to go," said Arriaga, now in his mid-30s. "If you had a friend that had a basement, he had the key to this kind of thing. But here in Florida there are no basements — you have garages, so the kids play there."

Now there's another alternative for kids like M.J. Pereyra, 17, who balances her music with intensive studies in the International Baccalaureate program at Gulf High. She used to be quite shy. Now she sings lead vocals in front of guitar player Chris Pendley, 16, and heavy metal screamers Brian Deleonard and Jason Dolinger, both 17. She writes her own songs and even has her own young fans who regularly record the group's sessions at the library on their cell phone cameras.

"This is actually great," M.J. said after Arriaga recorded her singing a cover of Temperance's You Make Me Happy for a video to post on MySpace. "I used to not be able to play guitar in front of people. Now I have the confidence to sing in front of people. It's made me what I am today."

"I come here because I like to sing, and I like to watch the band," said Kimberly Parrish, 14. "It's very nice, actually, that they do this for the teenagers."

Some adults agree.

"I'm really pleased that they're having this musical event for the kids," said Susan Vaughn, 66, a retired school librarian who volunteers as a cataloguer at the library. "I don't find it distracting at all. I think it's wonderful that these kids are here being creative, that they have a safe place to be. It's a new age. It's not a museum. It's an active living place."

Of course, not everyone feels the same. Arriaga said responses to the music program have been mixed.

The kids love it, of course. Local teachers and parents seem to like it, too — especially when reluctant readers venture in to check out the books on their favorite bands.

"The kids are reading — even if it's lyrics that I've printed off for them, they are reading," he said. "And some of the parents use this as leverage. If the kids don't keep up their grades or if they get in trouble, they can't come here.

"Some patrons don't like it," he said. "But I tell them, 'We're open 56 hours in a week and for just two of those hours we're doing this.' "

That's music to the ears of parents such as Rich Brown, who was eager to get his guitar- and drum-playing daughter Alexis, 10, into the garage band sessions after following the music up the stairs one recent Wednesday afternoon.

"Do you know how cool this is?" Brown said. "This is so cool. I wish they had something like this when I was a kid."

Fast facts

If you go

The New Port Richey Public Library is at 5939 Main St. For information on programs, call (727) 853-1279 or visit

New Port Richey Library offers budding teen rock musicians a place to jam 03/24/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 25, 2009 11:58am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. GOP's new repeal bill would likely leave millions more uninsured, analyses suggest


    WASHINGTON — The latest Republican bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act would likely leave millions of currently insured Americans without health coverage in the coming decades, and strip benefits and protections from millions more, a growing number of independent studies suggest.

    Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the Graham-Cassidy health care bill during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. [Evan Vucci | Associated Press]
  2. Mueller casts broad net in requesting extensive records from Trump White House


    WASHINGTON — The special counsel investigating Russian election meddling has requested extensive records and email correspondence from the White House, covering the president's private discussions about firing his FBI director and his response to news that the then-national security adviser was under …

    In a photograph provided by the Russian foreign ministry, President Donald Trump meets with Sergei Lavrov, left, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, May 10, 2017. Special counsel Robert Mueller is interested in this meeting, where Trump said dismissing FBI Director James Comey had relieved "great pressure" on him, the New York Times reported on Sept. 20. [Russian Foreign Ministry via  New York Times]
  3. 'We will find our island destroyed': Hurricane Maria demolishes Puerto Rico


    SAN JUAN — Sleepless Puerto Ricans awoke Wednesday knowing to expect a thrashing from the most ferocious storm to strike the island in at least 85 years. They met nightfall confronting the ruin Hurricane Maria left behind: engorged rivers, blown-out windows, sheared roofs, toppled trees and an obliterated electric …

    Rescue vehicles from the Emergency Management Agency stand trapped under an awning during the impact of Hurricane Maria, after the storm  hit the eastern region of the island, in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Maria has lost its major hurricane status, after raking Puerto Rico. But forecasters say some strengthening is in the forecast and Maria could again become a major hurricane by Thursday. [Carlos Giusti | Associated Press]
  4. Obamacare repeal bill offers flexibility and uncertainty


    The latest Republican proposal to undo the Affordable Care Act would grant states much greater flexibility and all but guarantee much greater uncertainty for tens of millions of people.

  5. Manafort offered to give Russian billionaire 'private briefings' on 2016 campaign, report says


    Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin, the Washington Post reports.

    Paul Manafort, then Donald Trump's campaign chairman, talks to reporters on the floor of the Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. [Associated Press]