Hidden inside a sterile-looking business park in East El Paso on James Watt Street is a creative hub that’s quietly becoming a beacon for the local underground music scene with an in-house produced web show called 306 Sessions.
“It was an intimate show and I was able to interact with the audience,” local hip-hop artist Zyme One said about performing at 306 Sessions. “It felt good to tell them the inspiration behind the music, which is something you can’t really do at a bar where people are holding conversations while you perform.”
The jam sessions are hosted by Zeven Music Entertainment Studio, which focuses on developing and highlighting local talent. It is a veritable art factory that houses a recording studio, video production facilities and a performance stage, all of which are utilized for its work with private clients and 306 Sessions.
“Every artist that has been here is amazing and it’s open for all genres of music,” said Ruben Chang, director of Zeven Music Entertainment Studio and co-founder of 306 Sessions.
Occurring every Sunday with an open mic element and recording of participants’ performances, the venue’s intimate size lends a communal atmosphere to 306 sessions, which is named after the facility’s suite number.
“The place itself is beautiful,” said Richie Marrufo, host and co-founder of 306 Sessions and another continuous event, the Barbed Wire Open Mic Series. “We have live cameras and monitors and they get to see themselves on the screen, and I think you kinda see some joy in the artist getting to see that when they perform live and interact with the camera.”
Selected artists are featured in the final cuts, which can be viewed on Zeven Music Entertainment’s YouTube page (see video below).
The music-championing program was spearheaded by an artistic collective led by Chang, Marrufo, and singer-songwriter Judy Aguirre, who brought the aforementioned two together.
“Not only do locals have a platform to perform, it’s also a haven for out-of-towners to experience the music and art scene,” Aguirre said.
A producer of the show, Aguirre said there are plans to have a songwriting contest and an awards show that would honor featured artists in a large venue.
“I love open mics and I love promoting culture in El Paso,” Marrufo said. “Especially for people to have a stage and share their art – whether it be through their voice or their music – I think that’s very meaningful.”
The program softly launched in October 2015 and slowly became home to a variety of performers every Sunday after that through the middle of December.
“After our first episode was put online right away, we were getting so many messages from people,” Marrufo said.
Chang said he had the idea for a program like 306 Sessions marinating in his head for a while, but he needed the cooperation of the likes of Marrufo, Aguirre and others to help execute it.
”We’ve manufactured our own creative community and we’ve all networked and shook hands and made friends and we keep going,” said Gabriel Armendariz, resident DJ for 306 Sessions. “It’s apparent that they have very high standards right from the first videos they produced.”
Chang emphasized that 306 Sessions is not only for musicians, but for anyone who desires to express themselves in front of an audience as well.
“It’s about being yourself, discovering your inner art and displaying it for everybody to know you for who you are,” Chang said. “It’s about touching people with originality, with your own music, your own brand.”
Those who want to simply watch the sessions are also encouraged to attend.
“You don’t have to be part of the open mic; we definitely would love to have people just be part of the audience,” Marrufo said. “People always say that there’s nothing to do here. That’s just simply not true if you go out there and find it.”
Zeven Music Studios
11394 James Watts, Ste. 306