The STEM Music Academy at 30 Monmouth St. is billed as a “makerspace” by founder and owner Kevin M. Patrick. RED BANK – Wall-to-wall PCs stocked with the latest design software, Oculus Rift VR and eSports gaming stations and a fully developed live music performance space are just part of the allure of the technological wonderland recently launched in the heart of the borough. It’s place where local students can gather after school and on weekends to collaborate with peers on various types projects in assorted mediums, while utilizing the facility’s state-of-the-art equipment. “If you’re a member, this is your playground. You can use everything we have to offer. Parents love that this is a space where there kids can be dropped off and feel safe to explore and experiment with different educational technology and make friends in the process.” According to Patrick, as well as entertainment value, the academy is a space where kids can receive assistance with homework assignments, training in gaming, eSports, music performance, mathematics, digital engineering and STEM learning courses. Patrick said his time working with students helped him conceive the idea for this modern community center, but it was when he began observing the opportunities – or lack thereof – available to his own children that he felt an urgency to bring the vision to life. “My career path has allowed me work with kids and I don’t think it’s any surprise that a lot of them feel alone. They feel caged up. They’re dealing with a lot of different things in their lives with no outlet to express that,” said Patrick. “There needs to be a peer group and a place where that group can share common interests. We offer that, and a staff that is going to take them around, keep them engaged and educate them.” “My 9-year-old has grown up with a touch screen in his hands. My 4-year-old has some trouble making friends because he’s been exposed to so much at an early age, in terms of technology, that it’s hard for him to find common ground,” Patrick said. “The dynamic of today’s culture and kids is not what it was like when we were growing up, but the emotional needs haven’t changed. And unless it was sports or video games or their phones, my kids had no place to turn for that social interaction.” “Our version of the makerspace is one that focuses on community and collaboration. We want kids to come here and not only share ideas, but learn how to develop those ideas together. This is our version of the modern community center,” said Patrick. The STEM Music Academy is located at 30 Monmouth St. in Red Bank, in the former Monmouth Music store. With a background in educational technology investment and partnership strategy, and a music industry career that allowed him to share the stage with local Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Debbie Harry and Blondie from 2003-2007, Patrick had an epiphany last year while teaching private music lessons in Rumson. “These kids are coming in and they’re not learning as much as they can because a lot of the lesson is them opening up and talking to me about their lives. They’re telling their parents it’s the best lesson they ever had, when really it’s therapy,” Patrick explained during a Nov. 29 interview with The Two River Times. “These kids don’t need to learn music or how to work with technology. It’s more important that they establish friendships. But music and technology can be a great facilitator of that.” The academy is currently running two special enrollment offers, including a three-month membership for $399 and a one-month registration for $150. But for Patrick, the space is an opportunity to provide a resource for the Two River-area youth that is more impactful than a piece of technology ever could be. The academy also offers additional music industry courses, like DJ lessons, songwriting workshops, ensemble development and musicology, as well as virtual reality experiences like problem solving on the space shuttle, and Friday evening teen nights with music, dancing and gaming. Located in the former Monmouth Music storefront, Patrick officially opened the doors to the academy Nov. 1 and said enrollment has increased over the past five weeks as more students and parents have experienced this intersection of educational technology, art and collaborative spirit in a semi-structured setting.