WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A new music venue in Wichita is offering a safe and unique space for performers and concertgoers.
“We see the voids of all-ages venues. We see the voids of the infrastructure of a sober community. We see all these voids and we feel like right now are not competing with anybody,” said Entertainment Director Aaron Underwood.
Underwood and his business partners James Barringer, Geoff Kelley, Brody Baker, and Jon Voges are the masterminds or collective members behind Muse Meridian Center, a more than 3,000-square-foot performance venue in the heart of Wichita.
“For the past four years, we have been pretty serious about trying to create the space for our vision, our vision being to incubate and elevate artists into being artists that can attract infrastructure which is something Wichita’s music scene really needs,” Underwood explained.
Underwood, who is also a musician, spent years touring the nation. He said many of the venues he played at were bars or had a bar-like atmosphere.
“What happens when all of your music is in the same place that serves you the poison it almost ruins your life. I can’t go out now and see music now in an environment where I don’t feel that pressure. That’s hard. I have lost enough friends to drugs and alcohol. I would just really like to see a place for that community to build itself in a more positive vibe and not feel so alone,” he said.
That was one of the sticking points for Underwood as he and his business partners worked to step outside the venue box.
“We had a bar space that we were cultivating and right before it opened we just, we just kind of had the feeling that we were contributing to the same thing that has been going on and that if we do the same thing that everybody else is doing, we are going to get what everybody else has got,” Underwood said.
Muse Meridian, located at 301 S Meridian Ave, opened in 2021 as an all-ages event venue. While it’s still a work in progress, it is already serving many young, local artists.
“It’s just beautiful being able to be a part of this,” said Syrone.
Syrone, a Wichita native, is an up-and-coming hip-hop artist. He was on the verge of hanging up his microphone before meeting Underwood and his team.
“There are a lot of things holding me back in this industry. Something they have pushed onto me is ‘hey, we are not going to have anything hold you back. We are going to have a drug-free environment. We are not going to have any alcohol here. This is going to be an all-ages venue. The things that we are going to be doing is something that can be offered to the whole entire world,'” Syrone explained.
Syrone told KSN he has already seen the positive effects Muse Meridian has had on him and on his career.
“I would be a lost soul. I’d be walking in the doors of people who do not have my best interest at heart,” Syrone said.
Musician Hector Almend shares a similar sentiment. He moved to Wichita from Dodge City in 2021. Shortly after arriving in town, he met Underwood and Barringer.
“They were just so welcoming from the get-go. They were just so kind and really made me feel more comfortable and get more out there and just from that alone has helped me. They are also helping me with opportunities whenever they can. ‘Hey, there is this gig coming up here’ or with tips like just now with songs and performing and all of that stuff helped out in so many ways,” said Almend. “If it wasn’t for that I would definitely be in a different spot. It would have been a lot harder to contact people. I would feel like I am a lot more by myself.”
Underwood said this is just the beginning for Muse Meridian. He said he would eventually like to see it become a place where artists as young as elementary school can take lessons and cultivate their craft until they are ready to release their first single or CD.
“I want that total package, total vision to happen here,” Underwood said.