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Local concert venue The Bridge, located at 1020 E. Walnut, also houses a music school and a record label.

Zach Baker/Senior Staff Photographer

Record labels, music schools and concerts, oh, my!

The Bridge brings more to the table than just your everyday music venue.

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From the moment you walk through the doors of The Bridge — which is going on its third year here in Columbia — you can feel the ambiance. There’s something different about this music venue, which is lesser known than The Blue Note or Mojo’s.

Not only does The Bridge hold about 200-250 guests, it is also the home of the Columbia Academy of Music and Home Tone Records.

“We are a venue, built by musicians, for musicians,” reads the large text on the home page of The Bridge’s website.

Wes Wingate, owner of The Bridge, says it is not trying to compete with The Blue Note or Mojo’s. As The Bridge is a much smaller venue, he doesn’t consider it to be in the same category as the other two.

Wingate does, however, believe that taking extra care of the sound and overall ambiance of the venue is what sets it apart from other local venues.

Wingate and his business partner, Andrew Weir, established The Bridge when they needed a place to teach music to students they had previously taught in another building that closed due to the financial crisis in 2008.

The two had been teaching kids and adults for years, and they wanted to continue teaching somewhere in Columbia. Wingate says The Bridge was the perfect place. It was downtown, and it was a place where they could offer a live music venue, as well.

The two still teach members of the community ages 4-64, primarily kids ages 6-11 at what is called the Columbia Academy of Music, the music school located inside The Bridge.

Then they started Home Tone Records. Wingate and Weir had previously worked with Mansion Studio in Columbia.

Home Tone Records has released 18 records so far, six of which were in the last year. Wingate says this was a lot for the label considering they released only three the year previous.

These records are primarily digital now, as many people no longer buy physical CDs, but Home Tone Records has released a number of CD copies, as well.

The Bridge general manager Kara Miller says the community-driven location is what really sets The Bridge apart from other local venues.

The Bridge has many events open to the community, such as a blues jam, open mic and more. These events are always free to the public.

Miller refers to the venue as a branch for new musicians to grow and develop.

“I like to think we create an environment that welcomes not only musicians, but members of the community,” Miller says. “The Bridge is definitely a space for the community.”

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