By Yasmine Shemesh
VANCOUVER – A few months ago, Rob Stewart was standing amongst construction rubble inside a warehouse on 1140 Clark Drive. The CEO of Suna Entertainment — parent company of Suna Studios, the affordable East Vancouver jam spaces created for musicians, by musicians — moved around the floor swiftly as he described, with welling pride, what this space would soon harbour: the Jamnasium, Suna’s newest studio. Now, construction is complete and the Jamnasium is finally opening this month, just a quick walk from Suna’s other three nearby locations.
“It took us 18 months to find the right spot,” Stewart says. “We looked at a lot of buildings. Our needs are pretty specific in terms of what we’re looking for, that being a warehouse in an industrial zone that’s inexpensive enough to allow for the business plan to make sense. The other part of that magical combination is a landlord that actually believes music is worthwhile. That’s very difficult to find. A lot of these guys are like, ‘Oh, musicians? Forget it!’ It was challenging. We had a buddy of ours who was walking up the street and looked up and saw a tiny little ‘For Rent’ sign in the window on the second floor, and we just went and talked to the guy.”
The Jamnasium is the largest of Suna’s studios and, as far as Stewart can tell, of its kind in Canada. “It’s one and a half floors,” he says. “Because it’s a big old rectangle, it’s 10,000 square feet. And it’s got a 2,500 square foot mezzanine in it, so it stacks up to about 12,500.” It has 49 rooms in total — 42 monthly lock-outs and seven by-the-hour rooms. Rates are $16.66 per hour and include a drum kit, guitar cab, bass amp, PA, and two microphones. And, along with being mammoth-sized, the studio will be aesthetically beautiful, too: it’s an open space with wood floors, insulated with Roxul and hockey pucks for extra soundproofing.
The Jamnasium helps ease the great need for affordable jam spaces in Vancouver (a void Suna has been continually working to fill with their studios since 2009 — the city’s climbing real estate prices are a factor) while cultivating and nourishing a sense of community in the local music scene. An integral part of that sustenance is the planned expansion of the charitable efforts that Suna participates in. They’ve already been steadily dedicating a portion of proceeds from shows they run, such as TacoFest, to the SPCA and the Vancouver Food Bank, and working with not-for-profit organizations like Music Heals and A Loving Spoonful. With the Jamnasium, they’ll be moving some of their hourly businesses into the new space — one of the main businesses being donated studio time to posAbilities, a not-for-profit that works with individuals with development disabilities.
“They do a weekly open jam where one of the councilors comes in with everybody, and they sit down and they play music and they sing,” Stewart says. “The beautiful thing about what we do is it gives us the ability to do these charitable events.”
Suna formed their own not-for-profit society, the Society for the Advancement of Artists and Musicians, in early 2017. They’ll be further expanding their charitable efforts through that, especially as they’ve now also taken over the recently shut down Diamond Sharp Studios in New Westminster.
“It was a fully functional jam space, so we got to go in there and just revitalize, which is great,” Stewart adds. “And the top floor of that building we’re going to give to our not-for-profit society so it has some space to begin its mandate, which is wonderful.”
The Jamnasium is located at 1140 Clark Drive.