TerryJosiah Sharpe enlisted in the U.S. Army six days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Six years and two tours in Iraq later, he was ready for something new.
“It was great, but it wasn’t the way that I wanted to help the community. I thought that I was going to jump out of airplanes and helicopters with food in my hand, all cinematic, giving it to little kids like the commercials,” said Sharpe, 36, a senior library associate with the Pikes Peak Library District’s Sand Creek Library in Southeast Colorado Springs. “I got out because I wanted to help the world in my own way, and my way is through music.”
Shortly after moving to Colorado Springs two years ago, Sharpe wandered into the Sand Creek Library in search of reading material. An employee, noticing the music notes inked onto Sharpe’s right arm, suggested he check out the library’s brand-new (at the time) free recording studio.
“They were looking for someone to help offer more hours to the community, and it just happened to work out that I was qualified and I’m now here,” Sharpe said. “I’ve been able to do some really great things with this platform.”
A San Diego native, Sharpe has bachelor’s degrees in music and creative writing from the University of Texas at El Paso. He is the multimedia director of Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence, a national nonprofit organization founded by his fiancée, Kristen Paruginog, and owns the production company Anthem Music Enterprises. His first single, “All in the Music,” is expected to be released by the end of 2019.
Sharpe sat down with the Business Journal last week to discuss the studio’s impact on Southeast Colorado Springs residents, his work with BTSDV, and how music has been his “saving grace.”
Tell us a little about what the studio offers.
We offer 45 hours of free studio time a week to the community. We are the only free full-time audio production studio in America. … Basically, our job is to amplify our patrons’ voice. Our patrons come in and do either podcasts, or we have comedians come in and do their skits, we have singer-songwriters who have never done any singing or songwriting before come in and want to develop their skills. My personal job is to help [patrons] develop their voice. … My specialty is in music because that’s what I know, so when people come in and they are fresh in doing music, when they leave, my job is to make sure that they’re extremely comfortable and confident with the project they have — something that they’re willing to share with their friends, with their family, and feel really good about sharing. … It’s really a beautiful thing. It’s gotten to the point where my fiancée doesn’t even ask me how my day was anymore, because she’s like, ‘Every time I ask you, you say it’s amazing.’ Just being able to help somebody come in and express their voice, express their emotions, it’s definitely an emotional release. … If people are looking to get music production, if they’re looking for a free studio to record their stuff, this is the place to come, for sure.
What role has music played in your life?
Music has been my saving grace, absolutely. It kept me from doing things that I probably shouldn’t be doing. My mom was a music director for my entire childhood growing up and always had us in some lane of music, or some understanding of music, theater or whatever it was to kind of keep us focused on this industry. Even in the military, I sang the national anthem for my graduation and did whatever music projects I could be a part of while in the military. It definitely has been my saving grace.
Why is this kind of service especially important for the people of Southeast Colorado Springs?
With various socioeconomic backgrounds, to be able to let a specific community or demographic know that their voice matters is really huge in today’s society. So for us to have [the studio] in this particular area, in the Southeast corridor of Colorado Springs, and letting this demographic of people know that their voice matters is so important. … I’ve done songs for a wide range of ages, of demographics, in here, and every age bracket, demographic, background of person has shared an emotional attachment to their projects, because they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to get these projects done if this studio weren’t here in this area. People who are in this area know that there’s another studio up at [Library] 21c … but again, the background of some of the people out here, they can’t get up there. So the fact that this is walking distance to a lot of people in this area is really huge for the people here, and for me to be able to help lead this moving forward is really humbling.
Arts are often first on the chopping block when it comes to educational budget cuts. Explain why places like this studio can help fill that void.
With all the funding cuts, art is usually No. 1, and it’s terrible because art is a medium in which people can release their voice. For people to say, ‘Oh OK, we don’t have money for that, so I’m sorry, but you’re just going to have to hold your tongue there, buddy, you’re not going to be able to express yourself.’ … this is truly a game-changer — not just because it’s a free studio, which is unheard of, but because it’s a free studio in this particular area. I think if we can get these studios in all of the lower-tiered areas of the community, it would change the entire scope of society. Imagine all the people who would be able to have access to something like this. Imagine what that could do for their confidence … doing something that could be damaging versus being in here and doing something productive. I’m a huge advocate.
How does the studio’s addition reflect libraries’ evolving role in the community?
The main mission of libraries is to provide access. Access 20 years ago looks different than it does today, so the fact that we can provide access in multiple different mediums is truly special. We do community events through this studio, we’ve had community members come out. In February we sang the black national anthem collectively and had different people come out from different backgrounds — they all wanted to be a part of it. We’re now doing jam sessions where we get people from the community to come out. [We have] the Urban Classic, where we’re bringing classically trained musicians together with urban artists to create an improv show on the spot. It’s really great. We have spoken-word artists come out.
Talk about your work with BTSDV.
It is the largest DV organization on the internet. … We kind of see domestic violence as a sandwich. The first slice of bread is the prevention — trying to get people to not do it and get out of the bad situations — and the meat and all the insides are like the crisis, the shelters, things that you need in the moment. The other slice of bread is OK, they’re out of that situation, now how do they progress? Most times they’re going to get back into an unhealthy relationship and start that cycle all over again, so it’s important that we help with the aftercare as well. So we’ve created a network of more than 500,000 people who are involved in our organization nationwide. We just opened it up for people to express and share their stories. They understand that it’s a safe place and they’re not going to get judged, because it’s an organization run by survivors, for survivors.
What has kept you in Colorado Springs?
Understanding the city wants to do well for the city. The city wants to uplift itself and find more ways of bringing communities together. Being from San Diego, the leadership was behind us in that aspect … but the community was more competitive — ‘Oh, you’re putting on an event? We’re putting on an event. Who’s going to go to which one?’ Out here, we haven’t run into that problem. We’ve had community members as well as leadership get behind what we’re doing, to the point now where people are seeing us in leadership roles in what we’re doing, including the music and arts areas. It’s been just humbling.