Tónhylur connects novice musicians with chart-toppers
Starting out your musical pursuits may feel like a daunting task. There are band members to recruit and gear to buy – and then you have to find space to keep it all. Generally speaking, those lacking access to a recording studio, practice space, or a network of like-minded musicians may have a challenge finding the proper encouragement to drive their ambitions.
In Reykjavík, music rehearsal spaces are scattered around town, commonly located in industrial parks with limited accessibility. Information about these spaces is usually word of mouth, making it difficult for beginners to start out without appropriate connections.
Luckily, Tónhylur has got that covered.
A dam good idea
In essence, Tónhylur is a not-for-profit cluster of music studios and rehearsal spaces catering to aspiring and established musicians alike. Spearheaded by musicians Kristján Sturla Bjarnason and Brynjar Unnsteinsson, the duo – and the larger team to which they belong – have worked hard to turn a former industrial space into an epicentre of Icelandic pop music.
Providing about twenty recording studios and 650 square metres of rehearsal space, Tónhylur’s mission is twofold: creating a community of like-minded creators and mentoring fledgling artists. Through educational programs and masterclasses, Tónhylur helps young individuals pave their way in music production.
The duo states the idea for Tónhylur started out of a concert held near the Árbær Dam in 2018. Due to the success of the events, they saw an opportunity to augment the neighbourhood’s music life. A year later, the building lease was signed.
Arts and Sports
Tónhylur’s organisational structure is not unlike a sports club, Kristján explains. “We have the championship team – the professionals – and then you have the youth team,” he says. Their youth program – appropriately named the Academy – aims to connect interested groups with the necessary facilities, support and skills to start making music.
“It all starts in the Academy,” Brynjar points out. “People sign up to programs and subsequently start renting out studios,” he says, explaining the usual pathway of Tónhylur’s participants. The Academy is almost a separate unit of the building itself, with its own lounge area and five smaller studios. “We collaborate with schools to bring students here. We offer them the studios and some guidance, but it turns out that people mostly want space to…” Kristján says, looking for the word. “… To be,” Brynjar finishes the thought.
Situated in Reykjavík’s East side – harbouring approximately 45% of the city’s population – few spaces like Tónhylur exist. Despite the fabled musical output of Iceland, facilities for music creation have often lacked support – save for institutions offering formal education, like traditional music schools.
In Kristján’s view, the issue of facilities isn’t talked about enough. “If we look at sports – the reason why people talk about success is because of the fact that we have good [sports] facilities. More thought needs to be put into places for people to rehearse and record music,” he argues. “In our experience, we could fill a few of these buildings. There’s a huge demand. Especially from young people.”
Starting out in only a small loft, Tónhylur now encompasses multiple units clustered under one roof. Although they emphasise music production, Kristján and Brynjar are positive about incorporating more creative sectors into their cluster. A case in point is artist Bríet’s efforts in fashion design. Her studio is also located in Tónhylur. There’s even a luthier in the house.
As we conclude the house tour, I catch a glimpse into a room at the end of the corridor, entirely detached from Tónhylur’s operations. “That’s the dentist,” the duo say, as we silently acknowledge the importance of good oral hygiene.
Tónhylur offers music programmes for various age groups. Visit their website, www.tonhylur.is, for more information.
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