They learn to play guitar and drums, “but not at the same time.”
It is the one-year anniversary of Rock and Roll San Diego School of Music and Recording Arts. Housed behind Soma on Sports Arena Boulevard, the campus tour begins in a recording studio. It is tiny but well-equipped. With the soundproof door open, one can hear drumming coming from the practice room next door. The source is a boy named Joaquin. How old? “Seven.” Joaquin tells me that he plays drums and guitar, “but not at the same time.”
Joaquin’s in a band called Shadow Bones with his ten-year-old brother Elijah, who sports purplish hair. Elijah asks if I knew that Justin Bieber taught himself to play drums. I did not. “He started just by tapping.”
“The age range of the students here,” explains Alex Imming, my tour guide, “is 8 to 12.”
A jittery teen girl in a spangled cobalt tube top and jeans shoots past us down the hall toward a posse of similarly dressed teen girls.
Rock and Roll San Diego offers private lessons, 6-week and 12-week group classes, and summer camps. It is a one-stop shop for child rockers. The 8000-square-foot facility includes a photo studio, a record label, a music publishing company, and a booking agency. The place also contains a maze of practice rooms, a kitchen, showers, musicians’ lounge, and a weight room.
“But the biggest part of the business is the rehearsal studios,” says Rock and Roll San Diego owner and founder Mark Langford. “Pierce the Veil just spent three nights here rehearsing for the Warped Tour.”
Langford is a classically trained guitarist-turned-entrepreneur. While country rockers Nancarrow set up on the sound stage, Langford runs down his own list of sound-engineering credits, which include Mother Teresa.
The Mother Teresa?
Yes. Langford’s tour support credits also include the late John Entwistle (the Who) and Steve Howe of Yes. “I have 40 years of pro-level experience. When the recession hit and things slowed down, I said, What am I gonna do?” His wife Darlene, who runs a six-person sewing shop in the same building, encouraged him to make the rock school a reality.
But rock is not the only music being nurtured at the school. Classical guitar figures into the curriculum as well. Joaquin and Elijah’s father is Lito Romero, of the Del Mar–based classical guitar–playing Romero family. He teaches at the school. “Actually,” Romero says, “I kind of oversee because I’m on the road most of the year with the Romeros.”
On Saturday, June 30, the House of Blues will host the Young Performers Showcase, including Rock and Roll San Diego alumni Alex Leivanos, Cassidy Dianne, Roxanne Reed, Holly Rubin, Fate By Friday, and Enemy My Enemy.