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You could learn to be a rock star

From seminars to jazz camps to rock-n-roll schools

Wayne Riker

Turn it up!

Turn it up!

It’s worked out that way so far for a 2012 San Diego Reader notable band: “All three of the kids in Big Bad Buffalo were students here,” School of Rock regional music director Tyler Ward says. Pupils attend the privately owned school twice weekly. “One visit is an individual lesson on their rock instrument of choice, and the other visit is to get them into one of our larger studios and have them play music with other kids.”

School of Rock Encinitas

165 South El Camino Real, Encinitas

The School of Rock teaching staff includes members of such notable hometown bands as Lady Dottie and the Diamonds, the Nervous Wreckords, Weatherbox, and the Silent Comedy.

“I want our students to be the kind of person I’d want to be in a band with,” Ward says. “I want to be able to audition against them for a slot in a band someday, and lose.”

Rock and Roll San Diego School of Music and Performing Arts

3360 Sports Arena Boulevard, suite A, Midway District

For the unadorned rock-and-roll guitar-shredder lesson plan, Wayne Riker likes a local private teacher named Mike Rugirello. (He’s based at yet another rock-star training camp called Rock and Roll San Diego.) Riker, 65 and living in Lakeside, is a recording artist, guitarist, and the author of nine guitar-instruction books himself.

“I started teaching guitar in New York in 1973. I made it out here by 1980. Probably the biggest dynamic that has changed is in the technology area. Back in the day, where you went to study was paramount. Now, you can learn anything on YouTube. You can get all the information you want for free, which takes away the incentive to go and study with someone. But if you want to become a rock star? You’ve got to work with a private teacher.”

Riker, who plays and teaches many styles of guitar, speaks favorably about the annual student jazz camps run by pros and hosted by UCSD and the Francis Parker School. Another is the Guitar Workshop Plus, a seminar that originated in Canada and now conducts workshops all over the U.S.

“I’ll be hosting this year in San Diego with Robben Ford,” Riker says, “and some other fairly recognizable names.”

So, we’ve been wondering about Poway. There was a period of time when that unlikely patch of north San Diego County spawned best-selling pop bands including Blink-182, Unwritten Law, Gabe Serbian from the Locust, and Crocodiles. But lately, not so much. Hard to say if the public school music programs up there were the reason, but if they were, bassist/educator Sam Johnson paints a grim picture.

“All the Poway District schools have enough students in their music programs to justify hiring two full-time instrumental teachers and one assistant as well as a choral director.” Johnson is the bass coach at four Poway area high schools and has been the band director at Madison and Hoover high schools.

“But the second teacher positions have been cut at almost all of the schools for budgetary reasons. Poorly directed budget cuts are killing music education here, and schools have been forced to ask families and friends to donate funds to support their music programs.”

Speaking of music education events... “We bring high-profile trombone artists to San Diego each year,” says music educator-trombonist Brian O’Donnell. “This year, Alan Kaplan, a studio trombonist in L.A. is coming down. He’ll do a master class for anybody interested in trombone.” Otherwise, O’Donnell, 27, spends the bulk of his workweek at schools throughout the county, schooling trombonists. At Point Loma Nazarene University, for example, O’Donnell works with a couple of trombone students who are enrolled in that school’s Music Ministry degree program.

“It’s a Bachelor of Arts in music, with a specialty in music and ministry,” Point Loma Nazarene University music-department co-chair Daniel Jackson says. He’s not sure if any other campus in the city offers such a degree path. “The degree is a moving target. Worship, and the way music is presented from church to church, changes.” The church music degree program offers classes in everything from the “history of worship to hymnology.” That way, Jackson says, students will be able to “conduct classical music services as well as worship teams,” which is nonsecular talk for your basic drum, bass, and guitar band.

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