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Plan for music-based play space nearly reality

Posted March 2, 2015

Clarke is working to build Notasium in Durham. Photo credit: Cabot Bartlett

A Durham dad is about $2,000 away from opening up his dream - a music-based play space and school for kids in the Triangle.

Preston Clarke, a dad of two and singer, songwriter and musician, is running an online fundraising campaign to build Notasium somewhere around the 15/501 corridor in the Durham and Chapel Hill area. The 6,000-square-foot facility would include a large, interactive musical playground where families could drop in for free play. The space also would offer music classes, programs, birthday parties and summer camps.

Clarke envisions kids who would naturally progress at Notasium from toddlers playing on the playground to older kids taking group or individual lessons and performing on stage.

"It's a place where kids can play, get some energy out and, at the same time, be musical," Clarke tells me. "... They are going to come here and learn about the building blocks of music."

Clarke's online Kickstarter campaign ends at 6 p.m., Thursday. His goal is to raise $40,000 and, at last check, he'd reached nearly $38,000.

Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform. Anybody can donate to Kickstarter projects. If they do, they'll get rewards. Notasium supporters can earn anything from a free play pass and coffee to free lessons and unlimited play.

Clarke has other investors interested in his concept as well. He'll need about another $100,000 to get Notasium built. Clarke is working with Stephen Norman-Scott on the project. Norman-Scott founded CSupport Services, a web development and Internet marketing company.

"It was meant to give us some capital we could bring to the table, we could bring to investors," said Clarke of the Kickstarter campaign. It's also helped to build buzz and a customer base for the project, he said.

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

But when Clarke, along with two daughters and his wife, a Durham native and UNC-Chapel Hill graduate, moved to the Triangle to be closer to family, his interest shifted from performing for adults to playing for kids. He started performing regularly at his daughters' preschool and began leading them in a church children's choir. For the last three years, he also has been a lead instructor at the Rock 'N Roll High School in Apex.

"When it's all kids and their little faces are looking up at you, it's magical," he said about performing for kids.

He's also a strong believer in the importance of music education for kids, citing studies that show there are benefits for the brain, memory, mental health, math skills and more.

Clarke said Notasium could open as soon as 90 days after the Kickstarter campaign ends on Thursday. He's hopeful that he'll surpass his $40,000 goal.

"The more we get, the quicker things will happen and the quicker things will come together," he said.

Notasium's Kickstarter page has a lot more information.

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