For more than a decade, precocious teen musicians who didn't want to rent a VFW hall or buy a block of tickets from a mid-size venue have enjoyed a secret haven in Squirrel Hill, called Youth Arts Project.
According to Rev. Cynthia Bronson Sweigert, rector of the Church of the Redeemer on Forbes Avenue, legend goes that YAP was started in the late '90s by a church youth named Liz Carrier. Responsibility passed down among Allderdice High School teens, such as Shannon Merenstein (now teaching art at Regent Square's Environmental Charter School) and Lydia Rosenberg (a recent art-college grad in Portland, Ore.) who ran it jointly in 2003-04.
The pair recalls themed events such as jazz night, a fashion show and art exhibits by Manchester Craftsmen's Guild students. "We worked really hard on it," says Rosenberg. "It was a good social outlet and fostered a creative spirit. YAP was definitely one of the things that made me want to be an artist."
The torch eventually passed to CAPA students, including percussionist Jeremy Malvin (a.k.a. electronic artist Chrome Sparks) who ran YAP during 2006-09. Along with student bands from Schenley, Penn Hills and Central Catholic, Malvin frequently connected YAP to the world outside: Weird Paul, Mustache Required, Somali rappers Lil Kiziguaz, WPTS band Bad Faith Compromise, ska band Masters of the Universe and a night called Yaptronix (featuring Xanopticon, Discuss and Pfunkt).
After apprenticing with Malvin, the conch went this year to CAPA juniors Jami Morgan (of punkers Code Orange Kids) and Tristan Cimini. "Jami will usually go onstage and be the MC, and I'll do the background jobs," Cimini explains. "I started going when I was in eighth grade and didn't know anyone at CAPA. I might continue doing promotional stuff, since I'm more into that than the art side."
YAP is always free and starts around 6 p.m. in the church multi-purpose room. Money from the sales of drinks and snacks covers the PA rental. According to Cimini, attendance at YAP has grown to about 100 kids. "A lot of high school kids come to YAP who wouldn't be able to go to live concerts. It gives them a chance to hang with their friends, and they just happen to see live music," says Malvin. Last week's event featured CAPA bands Zubat & The Bee's Knees, Comrade Kangaroo, Wifebeater and The Edukators.
Forget those Kinko's flyers -- advertising is almost entirely online. Teens interested in attending or playing YAP should peep the Youth Arts Project page on Facebook.