Ryerson’s Music Den hits the right note for young innovators

Chris Prendergast shows off his invention, the portable guitar-mounted amplifier, JamStack

Chris Prendergast shows off his invention, the portable guitar-mounted amplifier, JamStack (Courtesy Daniel Slater)

The Faculty of Communication and Design’s (FCAD) new Music Den is already on its way to helping a Toronto-based innovator discover his passion.

For Chris Prendergast, 29, the opportunity to work with industry veterans and collaborate with other young entrepreneurs inspired him to apply to be a part of the Music Den, a program that provides help to innovators in the music industry.

Prendergast was encouraged to join Music Den by a friend who was already involved in the program.

He is working on an invention called JamStack, a portable amplifier that mounts directly onto an electric guitar’s body.

JamStack uses pre-existing smartphone software for effects and recording (Courtesy Chris Prendergast)

JamStack uses pre-existing smartphone software for effects and recording. (Courtesy Chris Prendergast)

There’s also space to mount your smartphone next to the amplifier. A musician can then record music on the phone, as well as use the phone to create sound effects projected through the amplifier.

“Where it really shines is practising … it’s for getting better [at playing guitar],” he said.

Prendergast came up with the JamStack idea over a year ago and shared the concept with a relative.

“My cousin’s husband, who’s a business man, thought it was the coolest thing he’d ever seen,” he laughed.

JamStack was accepted into the program and Prendergast is currently being mentored by Music Den director and former music lawyer, Steven Ehrlick.

Steven Ehrlick, director of the Music Den, has worked in legal and business affairs for BMG Music Canada and EMI Music Canada, and co-founded the Toronto-based Orange Record Label in 2002. (Jacob Cohen)

Steven Ehrlick, the director of the Music Den, has worked in legal and business affairs for BMG Music Canada and EMI Music Canada. He also co-founded the Toronto-based Orange Record Label in 2002. (Jacob Cohen)

Ehrlick said he was surprised to get such a hardware-based pitch for the Den. He added that this initiative was originally conceived to provide support and legal advice to people developing musician-oriented softwares and music blogs. He stressed that the Den was open to a diverse range of pitches.

“I don’t know what I was expecting,” admitted Ehrlick, “But that’s the nature of innovation. ‘Surprise me.’”

Ehrlick said he hopes it will become one of the first innovations to flow through the Music Den. People have pitched everything from plugless earbuds that would provide good sound without requiring noise-cancellation to a form of Airbnb for touring musicians.

As for Prendergast, he now has a working prototype. He will begin a crowdfunding campaign later this month on Kickstarter, with a funding goal of $50,000 USD.

“Right now, we’re just focused on doing the best possible job at a crowdfunding campaign that we can,” he said.

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