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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Community organizations seek volunteers

Sep 07, 2021 02:52PM ● By Cassie Goff

Students who participate in SLAM programs have the opportunity to perform live across Salt Lake County. (Photo courtesy of Steve Auerbach/ Salt Lake Academy of Music)

By Cassie Goff  | [email protected]

Throughout the summer, the Cottonwood Height City Council heard from various community organizations throughout Salt Lake County. These organizations are primarily seeking exposure and looking for participants, as their membership bases have dwindled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

On July 6, Salt Lake Academy of Music (SLAM) Executive Director Steve Auerbach presented an overview of their programs. SLAM offers musical education and instruments to community youth members on a sliding fee scale.  

“We’ve created this safe and fun space where music students, of any background or socioeconomic status, can find a community with like-minded peers and expert staff. Students have opportunities to develop a craft and build the confidence for leadership skills,” Auerbach said. 

SLAM and KRCL Community Radio partnered to being a musical instrument recycling program called SLAM-EX. Residents can drop off unwanted or unused musical instruments which are then recycled for SLAM students. 

Students receive instruction from internationally renowned DJs, producers, and musicians. “Our teachers really care. It’s hard to describe how much passion they have for the kids,” Auerbach said.

SLAM students and graduates can perform live at many different venues throughout Salt Lake County. Previous SLAM students have performed at the Utah Blues Festival, Salt Lake Arts Festival and the Sugar House Park firework shows. 

Auerbach shared the success of some SLAM graduates. While a handful never left SLAM and continue to teach music to incoming students, others found careers in music.  

For example, Maddie Rice started in School or Rock, a precursor program to SLAM, and moved to play on the “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Now, she sits on the guitar chair for “Saturday Night Live.” 

“We have a contingency of families in Cottonwood Heights,” Auerbach said as he introduced resident Cory Deagle. 

“Our two girls (nine and 11) joined SLAM earlier this year, since Butler Elementary does not have a music program. It’s exhilarating to see the confidence SLAM instills in the youth. It’s not completely about teaching them to play like Eddie Van Halen, which they do by the way,” Deagle said. 

SLAM opened a state-of-the-art studio in Sugar House early in 2020. Seventy-three days after opening, they had to close down for the COVID-19 pandemic. Since reopening, they have been successful in keeping the spread of the virus low by implementing numerous precautions.  

“If there’s an opportunity to increase the visibility and access for the kids in our community, I think it can only do us all well,” Deagle said.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, SLAM receives funding from both public and private entities including the Zoo, Arts, & Parks Program (ZAP) and Salt Lake County’s Arts Council. 

On July 20, Circles (Salt Lake County) Support Specialist Wes Long presented an overview of their program. Circles offers resources and social support to residents experiencing poverty. 

“Our program is designed to empower people to leave poverty situations and help facilitate systemic change to barriers that can block a person’s financial stability,” Long explained. 

Participants who choose to enter the Circles program are called Circle Leaders. Circle Leaders are provided training to discuss topics such as finances, trauma and healthy communication. They attend weekly meetings and monthly forums for which they set their own agenda. Circle Leaders set their own personal goals and receive assistance achieving those goals. 

“We are grounded in research that shows low-income families must have strong social capital and human connection across class lines in order to improve their economic situation,” Long said.  

Circle Leaders are paired with allies from middle-to-upper income levels. Allies work with Circle Leaders for 18 months on average to listen and support them while developing connections and friendships. 

“Those who graduate from the program achieve a roughly 71% increase to their income. They report being recognized and respected for who they are,” Long said. “They use their voice to teach the rest of us about the experience of poverty.” 

“The path out of poverty can be long and unpredictable. Whether such a path entails finding safer housing, more reliable transportation, or accessible pathways to education or a career, it is worth the effort,” Long said. 

Long asked the city council and staff members for help reaching some of the city’s residents. “Roughly 5.3% of Cottonwood Heights’s population, around 1,800 people are living in poverty. We would like to help those individuals and involve those who are not in poverty situations.” 

Circles is searching for volunteers. Short-term volunteers are needed to help with weekly events and monthly forums. Long-term volunteers are needed to be allies and long-term friends for the Circle Leaders. 

“I feel the people of Cottonwood Heights have much to offer in this regard, if only they could be reached.”

Circles is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with 80 chapters around the United Sates and Canada. The Salt Lake City chapter launched recently so they will be continuously working with other chapters throughout the State of Utah. 

For more information on Circles (Salt Lake): call 801-364-0200, search Circles Salt Lake on social media platforms, or visit

For more information on SLAM, visit: