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The Break teen center gets a music room makeover

Several volunteers helped make improvements to The Break, a teen center in Crystal Lake.
Several volunteers helped make improvements to The Break, a teen center in Crystal Lake.

Visiting to help restring some guitars at The Break teen center in Crystal Lake, musician Jeff Schwertfeger wanted to do more.

His brother, Jim Schwertfeger, manages the center, and Jeff, a drummer who toured with the band Five Finger Death Punch last year, had returned home for a visit, planning to fly right back to Las Vegas. Instead, he delayed his flight and called some of his musician friends from throughout the area.

They worked through the night and into the week to completely revamp the center’s music room.

“All of a sudden, it was turned into a professional studio setting,” Jim Schwertfeger said.

He and Brenda Napholz, the center’s founder and president, couldn’t believe what they saw. The room went from disarray to amazing, they said.

All on their own time and money, the group of musicians, along with a few teens who use the center, repainted the entire room, replaced and updated some of the older instruments and recording equipment and added some sound buffering. 

Some of the musicians involved in the revamp even gave some free music lessons to the teens.

Along with instruments, such as guitars, drums and a keyboard, the room has a microphone and computer recording program for vocalists. 

The nonprofit center at 6292 Route 14 in Crystal Lake has had a music room since it opened in 2014 as a safe place for teens to connect, hang out and make friends. The center – clbreak.com – also has a “zen room,” complete with a hammock, couch and bean bag chair, and a recreation room with pool tables, a TV with a gaming system, a projector wall and more.

The music room had been used nonstop the first three years after the center opened, but hadn’t really been utilized as much this past year and needed upgrades.

The work done hopefully will draw more area teens to the room and the center, Napholz said, and it re-energized her and Jeff Schwertfeger.

“It was amazing,” Napholz said. “I can’t even tell you how grateful Jim and I were for that. It means a lot for the kids. The kids get to see that a generation of cool people closer to their age are coming to give back. 

“I would love to see as many kids as possible come in and utilize what we have. The Break is and always has been driven by the kids and what they want.”

Seventeen-year-old Emma Samano of Crystal Lake, a senior at Crystal Lake Central High School, has gone to The Break since her freshman year and has used the music room to play her bass guitar. She also plays drums.

The center became a second home for her, she said, as a place to relate with other teens, talk through any problems and just have fun. 

“It’s just a place I can go to feel happy,” she said.

Among the musicians helping were Colin Berg, Tom Hane, who played drums with the group In This Moment, and Jon O’Malley of the band Over the Line. 

O’Malley, who graduated from William Fremd High School in 2017, started traveling from his hometown of Hoffman Estates to The Break his sophomore year of high school.

“Immediately, I fell in love with the atmosphere,” he said. “The people were great, and I want the community to be able to have that in the present for kids. They helped me with so much. I definitely do owe them a lot. Brenda [Napholz] is doing a good thing for the community, and there should be more recognition of that.” 

He said, at first, the thought was they’d clean up the music room a bit, maybe replace a couple pieces of equipment. 

“I think it really went above everyone’s expectation,” he said. “This looks better than any [professional musical studio] you can rent out right now.”

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