Concert Previews

Freeway Music Festival at the Heart of the Scene


Tin Roof Columbia hasn’t been known as a music hot spot since it opened, but that isn’t the case lately. It seems like every weekend they’ve had some really good music happening. That continues this weekend with 12 bands at Freeway Music Festival for only $5.

Freeway Music Festival is more than just your typical run of the mill music festival. For those who aren’t familiar, Freeway Music is an instructional school with two locations in Columbia, one downtown and one in Northeast, with a combined 25 instructors teaching 500 students just about every instrument you can imagine. If you take lessons at Freeway Music you have a good chance of taking lessons from not only a very talented musician, but also someone that’s in a popular local band. This years festival lineup includes many of the instructors, and in turn boasts a stout lineup of local talent in one place.

“It’s a huge deal for us to have teachers that are relevant, that also have the educational background, and the experience to pass along to their students.” Says Don Russo who heads up Music Freeway. “These bands are all bands of our instructors, who are passionate about reaching out to the community through music. They are all definitely great musicians and teachers, but on top of that, they are all amazing people.”

Proceeds from this years festival go to help the On Ramp Scholarship, which is a fund that Russo and crew dreamed up to help give those that can’t afford private lessons the opportunity, or to help out a Freeway family member who hits hard times. It’s this type of family atmosphere that turns Freeway from just another music academy into something special built into the music community. Russo and Freeway Music got to where they are today with this community first attitude, and hard work and dedication.

“I started teaching by myself in a conference room of a restaurant. Then as students started flowing in I transitioned from there, to a church, to a dance studio, to the building we are in now.” Russo goes on to talk about how involved the Freeway instructors are by saying “I selected instructors that are involved in the local music scene, and who have awesome personalities. We all jive really well together at Freeway, because everyone loves what they do and loves helping people of all ages become the musician that THEY want to be.”

Any night of the week you can see Freeway Music instructors either performing or hanging out at any of the local music haunts of Columbia. From jazz nights at Hunter Gatherer and Speakeasy, to dingy house shows, these guys are ingrained in the community in the best ways. As time goes by it will be their students becoming even more a part of the music scene here, with some instruction on how to do it the right way.

That’s already starting to happen.

“Some of our students bands are doing really well in the music scene, such as Seventy Six and Sunny, and we want to continue to provide awesome music to the public.” Next year Russo plans to have a stage specifically for the students. Seems like a simple enough task with the amount of support that this years festival has received already.

“We want to use the festival to build up the On Ramp Scholarship so that anyone who wants to explore music has the option. It’s such an amazing part of life, so we want to share it with everyone!” Russo says. Freeway Music is building something from the ground up for everyone in our community to enjoy. That’s something we can all get behind.

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