In 1985 I had gotten settled into my teaching career and was starting to accrue a bit more money beyond simple survival. I had one small keyboard, a Casio CZ101, but I wanted something with full-sized keys. I made a trip down to a huge music store in Atlanta and purchased a Korg DW-6000. On my way back I stopped at my brother Houston’s house in Athens to show off the new keyboard. I also caught a show with my former band, Freeze Warning, at a club in town. I was tempted to bring out the new keyboard and join them, but I just enjoyed listening. The next day I pulled it out and put it through its paces at Houston’s house.
The Korg became the heart of my MIDI setup for many, many years. I added a drum machine and sequenced everything through a Commodore 64 computer. Add a three-tiered keyboard stand, amp, and computer desk and I had what I called my “Power Pod.” I used this system to compose and record many, many tunes.
I was never really happy with the DW-6000, though. Shortly after I bought it the DW-8000 came out, which had touch-sensitive keys and lots of improvements. In 2000 I bought a Yamaha S-90 with 88 keys, a weighted keyboard, and just about everything I needed to do my compositions. The DW-6000 was relegated to secondary status and eventually wound up in our attic.
Before Christmas Houston said that he would like to get a keyboard to work out some melodies. I thought about the DW-6000 and my goals for 2022. This would be a great opportunity to pass along something that was just taking up space in my house to someone who could use it. I made arrangements to take the keyboard down to Houston’s house.
I pulled the keyboard out of its case when I got to Houston’s house and was surprised at how much it had deteriorated. The keys were still ok, but the formerly white buttons and controls had yellowed substantially.
I went ahead and set up the keyboard rack and keyboard, then plugged it in. Nothing. Actually, there was something. A message on the LCD read TAPE. Apparently the keyboard has lost its memory and needed to have the patches reloaded from cassette tape. Sadly, I lost that tape long ago. I’m not even sure how to update from cassette and I don’t think I have a cassette player that would work. I made major apologies to Houston. I should have checked it out before hauling it down there.
However, Houston had a solution. In Athens is an organization called Nuçi’s Space. They accept donations of musical instruments. When we called them they were excited to hear about the keyboard, even if it wasn’t in working condition. Looked like we would be making a trip into town.
Nuçi’s Space is in downtown Athens right next to the R.E.M. steeple. This is all that remains of the former St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, where R.E.M. performed their first concert in 1980 when they called themselves the “Twisted Kites.” The band picked its now famous name for their next gig. Nuçi’s Space now owns the steeple and is in the process of restoring it as a musical landmark.
As for Nuçi’s himself, Nuçi Phillips was a talented musician from Athens with a history of mental illness. After a suicide attempt in 1991 he got treatment and became active in the Athens music scene. Sadly, in 1996 Nuçi succeeded in taking his own life. In 1999 Nuçi’s mother, Linda Phillips, set up the Nuçi Phillips Memorial Foundation. In 2000 Nuçi’s Space opened with the following mission:
Our mission is to prevent suicide. With a focus on musicians, Nuçi’s Space advocates for and helps to alleviate the suffering for those living with a brain illness and fights to end the stigma of mental illness.
Nuçi’s Space provides resources for young musicians in Athens, including low-cost rental of rehearsal space and instruments.
When we arrived Houston and I were greeted by a young man whose name, sadly, I did not get. He was the one with whom we had spoken on the phone earlier, and he was thrilled to be getting a vintage synthesizer, even if it wasn’t functioning properly. He was equally thrilled with the rack and case for the keyboard.
We were given a tour of the building. The entrance opens onto an area with a small stage and a coffee bar. Right now the space is occupied with donated amps and instruments that have been reconditioned for sale. The stage has other sound equipment and guitars that can be rented for use in the space.
Down a hall we found different rehearsal spaces. Some of these were already equipped with drum sets and pianos, as well as mic stands and monitors.
The space also features a fully equipped recording studio and rental comes with recording engineers. I didn’t find out how much the studio rental was, but other rentals were VERY reasonable – $10 per hour for rehearsal space and $3 per hour for a guitar.
Speaking of guitars, Houston and I had to try out some of the ones they had available. These had been set up and reconditioned by a local luthier.
It was a great visit. Even in its non-working condition I could have sold the Korg on eBay and gotten anywhere from $300-$500 for it, especially if I threw in the case and rack. But that’s OK. I’m happy with the way things turned out. It’s a donation that’s going help young musicians, and I can’t think of a better fate for it. The first time I sat down and seriously played the Korg was when I brought it back to Houston’s house after purchasing it in Atlanta. It seems only fitting that it should find its way back to Athens where it can continue to inspire others.