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Sunday, April 9, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Nicole Brodeur

Vera helps keep teens in tune

Seattle Times staff columnist

Two weeks later, what have we learned?

That there are people in the world who pack their pickups with guns and ammo, then wait for "Now" to open fire. That there are young kids out until all hours.

One other thing we've learned in the wake of Kyle Huff's rampage: The music opportunities for young people must continue, and grow.

So it was great to see Mayor Greg Nickels the other day proclaim the Snoqualmie Room at Seattle Center the new home of the Vera Project.

It was even better that he announced a $350,000 grant to help turn the room into a performance, production and administrative space that will train and engage young people in all forms of music — from playing instruments to running lights to printing posters to folding chairs after a concert.

"We're not reacting to what happened on Capitol Hill by closing down places for young people to meet," Nickels told me. "We're creating more."

I let out a welcome sigh. For two weeks, the city has squabbled about what could have saved those six young people, two of them under 21. Fewer all-ages events? More regulation? God, no.

What it should do is support what works. And the Vera Project has a five-year record of doing just that.

The nonprofit just kicked off a $1.5 million capital campaign headed by Kate Becker, 44, a former social worker. She started The Old Fire House in Redmond in 1992 at the behest of a city official seeking a place where her teenage son could safely listen to music, and learn to make his own.

Becker hit the streets and asked around. Kids wanted live music, and a place where their own bands could play.

The first show was in September 1992; 324 kids showed up. Becker never looked back.

The Vera Project had its first show in 2001, when it was at the IBEW Local 46 hall. It moved to Fourth Avenue until last year, when it was forced out by development.

Seattle Center was eager to offer its space.

"Either the community will provide a safe, supervised and simultaneously new and exciting experience for its young people," Becker said. "Or young people will provide their own entertainment."

She told me of the integrity and respect young people have shown her. We talked about Garth Brewe, 19, a Vera volunteer who told me of the community he had found there.

It shows that the place was aptly named; "Vera" is an acronym of the Latin phrase veri et recti amici, which means "true and sincere friend."

"The all-ages atmosphere is about music and community and having a good, sober time," Becker said. "Not about older men dancing with teenage girls."

Those who are questioning the safety of all-ages shows should attend one, she said.

"I suspect they would be so inspired that they'd find themselves volunteering at or donating to the Vera Project."

The city already has done that; so has the Allen Foundation and King County. Individual donations are trickling in.

Mine will be one of them. Time to stop picking apart the horrid, recent past and build a better, musical future.

Nicole Brodeur's column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.

Molo was her favorite show.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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