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Go Ask Mom

New music-based playspace coming together in Durham

Posted June 28, 2015

Notasium, the music-based playspace planned for a former music store in Durham, is taking shape.

Inside, work has begun on the 3,000-square-foot play area, where families can come in for drop-in play. In the back of the building, off Chapel Hil Boulevard, are rooms designed for group and individual music lessons. Lessons will begin in July. The play area should open in August. In fact, summer camps and birthday parties already are lining up for August.

"It has been very difficult and challenging, but it's been so much fun at the same time," said Stephen Norman-Scott, a Hillsborough father of two.

Norman-Scott and Preston Clarke, also a dad of two, are behind Notasium, which won full funding in a Kickstarter online fundraising campaign earlier this year and also has secured additional funding from local investors. In fact, there's so much interest in their concept that Norman-Scott said he's already fielded some interest from others in buying franchises of the business.

The goal for Notasium, Clarke said, is for kids to have fun, but also develop a knowledge and passion for music. He sees kids growing up in the space - climbing and playing in the play space as young children and moving on to classes and lessons as they get older. Notasium will offer both caregiver and young child programs, to start in the fall, along with traditional lessons on a variety of instruments.

"The idea here is to play and get some energy out, but learn a little bit about music at the same time," Clarke said.

Clarke brings plenty of his own musical experience. He was in the indie rock trio St. Surreal in Los Angeles and worked as a solo artist in New York City. He also has toured nationally and even performed a single on "The Late Late Show" with Craig Ferguson.

He started playing for kids after his own children were born and the family moved to the Triangle to be closer to family. He's performed for his daughters' preschool and also teaches music lessons. (I'm sure a highlight of his career was performing for Go Ask Mom's North Hills event in May. I'm excited he'll be back for our July 14 event at North Hills' Midtown Park.).

Clarke and Norman-Scott took me on a tour where work is very much in progress - by a whole collection of dads. Norman-Scott's own father and father-in-law have helped out. Clarke's dad, an electrical engineer and inventor, was on site, putting together circuit boards that will help make the play pieces come alive with musical notes and sounds. Even the crew working on the sanding and painting was a father-and-son team.

The plans call for the 3,000-square-foot playspace, which will be the first thing that visitors see as they enter the building. Families can drop in during the regular busienss hours to play for a small fee. There also will be a small coffee shop with self-serve coffee and seating for parents can watch their kids from there, if they'd like.

The playspace will include a section for the 3 and under crowd with soft play pieces, similar to what you'd see at a mall playground, and a giant keyboard they can play.

Clarke and Norman-Scott want to keep some of the other pieces under wraps, but the space also will include a music-themed climbing wall and slide, where kids can make sounds. There will be a music-themed bounce house. Another piece will give kids to learn more about the musical scale in a kind of Lite-Brite design. And there will be a couple of rooms where kids can learn more about recording music or sing some karaoke (which I think will be a hit with tweens and teens).

The space in the back provides ample room for lessons, classes and birthday parties, which will include time in the play area and music activities.

For both Norman-Scott and Clarke, there's been a steep learning curve. But even before the space has opened, they say they already have gotten so much from the experience as they've seen the community come together to support it and their ideas come to life inside. Most of the play pieces are custom designed for Notasium. Some of them, with the help of Clarke's dad, Clarke and Norman-Scott are inventing themselves.

Norman-Scott is a long-time woodworker and graphic designer. Clarke enjoys working on various projects and sharing his passion for music.

"I always loved to do home improvement," Clarke said. "This is awesome."

Notasium's website has more information about signing up for music lessons. On Facebook, they share updates and pictures of the progress.

Go Ask Mom features local parents every Monday. In June, we feature only dads. Happy Father's Day!


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