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Partnership with music studio opens doors for students

Homecoming pep fests are memorable experiences for most high school students, but the pep fest at Burnsville High School last fall may prove life changing for senior Markell Sutton. His musical performance led a staff member to introduce him to THE GARAGE, a music venue and recording studio that partners with the city of Burnsville and Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191 to provide learning opportunities for students.

In Markell’s case, what the partnership is providing is an opportunity for self-expression and the chance to pursue his passion and hopeful career pathway.

“I didn’t even know anything about [THE GARAGE],” he said. “I did not know it even existed.”

The first day, Markell sat down with GARAGE staff members, including studio manager Robb Frost, and started laying out a plan that matched his goals and ambitions. Just five months later, Markell has released a four-song EP titled “Spoken Chronologically” along with a music video, and he has plans to release a full album later this spring.

“Markell has done an amazing job of coming to the program prepared and ready to take advantage of this great opportunity,” said Jack Kolb-Williams, executive director of THE GARAGE. “His work ethic, commitment, and dedication to the craft is inspiring to watch especially for someone his age. We can't wait to see how he develops as he gets closer to finishing his mix-tape later this semester.”

Markell says he started writing and recording as a 12-year-old when he got an iPad for Christmas and discovered the music sharing site SoundCloud. He would spend free time typing lyrics into the notes app on his phone, asking his friends what they thought of his work. Eventually, he met a group of friends who shared his passion.

“It was a good experience,” he said. “Sitting in the basement with them, writing stuff and recording just for fun.

“Eventually, when I was 15, I was like, OK, you gotta talk about something. You know, put your life into it,” he said, explaining how his work started to evolve into something more meaningful.

Going forward, Markell is hoping to keep producing music and find opportunities to perform.

“If I feel myself improving, that’s the best thing,” he said. “Just hearing people give comments, you learn from that. But your main focus is yourself. You just have to be yourself.”

Markell is one of two Burnsville High School students recording music at THE GARAGE this year. Jamal Hassan, a 9th grader at the school, has working with Kolb-Williams and Frost to develop his own sound and begin writing with a plan to release a demo album later this school year.

You can hear Markell’s music at

THE GARAGE is run by Twin Cities Catalyst Music, with youth programming provided through the Burnsville Youth Collaborative. Learn more about THE GARAGE at

Posted: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 - 10:43