They came from different eras, composed and played very different genres of music, but French impressionist pianist/composer Claude Debussy and instrumental rock guitarist Joe Satriani actually have something in common.
They were both music teachers who gave, and in Satriani’s case still gives, private lessons to aspiring musicians.
It’s not an unusual occupation for a musician to teach the fundamentals of any given instrument, or to help students learn to read the notes on a page. However, the benefits of a professional musician sharing his or her knowledge of what it’s like to be on a stage, performing live, is unique.
A group of well-known musicians are offering just that experience to students in Vernon.
They have just joined forces to start up a new music school, 29th Street Music Studios, that will not only provide the fundamentals on a number of different instruments, but will give actual opportunities for performance.
“A school is only as good as its teachers and we have a good core group with lots of experience. We are all out there playing, not just talking the talk,” said Linc Balardo, a guitar instructor who has nine years of teaching experience, mostly rock and pop music, and who has played with a number of local bands.
“We are all are on board with doing concerts and giving students something that goes beyond the classroom. We want to get students with other students performing, We hope to do Christmas shows, tribute concerts and whatever other events are taking place in town.”
Balardo stresses the part about getting students to perform with one another.
“Getting together with other musicians can be like climbing a mountain. They are either shy or just don’t know how to go about it. The school is a way to network with people,” he said.
In fact, Balardo has been working with a group of female guitar students who are now getting into the concert circuit.
“They now have a band called the G-strings and they have six-or-seven songs they have learned. It’s incredible seeing young students break out into performing. Some are now in Vancouver playing professionally and going to university for music.”
Vernon-raised drummer Dan Oldfield is one of those musicians who has recorded and performed professionally – in his case, with the likes of Andrew Allen, Greg Sczebel and Jon Buller – and is now sharing his knowledge for the first time as an instructor.
He gives lessons on a drum kit as well as on various percussion instruments such as the cajon, djembe, congas and bongos.
“It’s a confidence booster getting students to play live,” he said. “A lot of students will come out of here with a good background of what it’s like to be a performer.”
Oldfield also stresses the importance of students having that one-on-one contact with their instructor rather than getting lessons off the internet or other outside sources.
“It’s confusing as you can only see so much on the ‘net. You can’t see the hands or the feet properly. You have that personal rapport working with the student in person. We can get on their case more so they feel obligated to practise,” he laughed.
“We see students for an hour to half-an-hour a week and sometimes they will tell you things they may not want to tell their parents. You get to know them and you can personalize the experience.”
With the school having opened Sept. 8 and enrolment going at a steady pace, Balardo hopes to eventually have students not only perform but also record.
“It would also help if some of them could learn about sound recording and to do the sound at our concerts,” he said. “We want them to be well rounded. It will make them better musicians in the end.”
The 29th Street Music Studios currently has three guitar instructors, including Balardo, John Phillips and Jim Miles, keyboard instruction from Betty Ann Northup, vocals with Paul Moore, and bass with Roy Kawano of Cod Gone Wild fame. Lessons are also available in ukulele, banjo, mandolin and classical guitar. More information is available on the school’s Facebook page.