Cathie Anderson

School of Rock enters Sacramento market; Bach to Rock adds site

From left, Connor MacIsaac, 14, does homework as Jude Saba, 11, practices a guitar riff as they both wait in the lobby of Imagine Music Instruction in Roseville, Calif., on Aug. 16, 2016.
From left, Connor MacIsaac, 14, does homework as Jude Saba, 11, practices a guitar riff as they both wait in the lobby of Imagine Music Instruction in Roseville, Calif., on Aug. 16, 2016. ehiller@sacbee.com

Music instruction franchises Bach to Rock and School of Rock are expanding into the Sacramento region with programs aimed at getting kids ready to take the stage, and that means increased competition for locally grown music studios.

School of Rock franchisees Jason Kline and Cecilia Yi are renovating a historic building in Elk Grove that was occupied for roughly 120 years by a lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. They started out with a budget of $300,000 for the project, Yi said, but it will likely end up costing much closer to seven figures. She and Kline expect both places will become like their students’ second homes.

“This is a passion project for us,” Kline said. “We’re aiming for spiritual fulfillment, and I think if we can find that, the money part, it will come, like any good idea. We want to see the kids grow, from when they come in and are shy and they don’t really know how to interact at that 11-, 12- or 13-year stage, and then all of a sudden, they’re rocking out with friends.”

The husband-and-wife team also are planning a second School of Rock site somewhere in Roseville, which will put them in closer competition with the new Bach to Rock storefront that opened July 30 at 2311 Sunset Blvd. in Rocklin. Dr. Albert and Millie Kahane, both in their late 80s, decided to invest in the B2R brand because their 62-year-old son Robert Kahane, a classically trained musician, had the knowledge to be a general manager.

“This is where my whole life has been since I was 4, even though I did other things and worked on other things,” Robert Kahane said. “I’ve got about 3,000 hours of studio time, and I’ve had about 3,500 gigs that I’ve played over the years. Teaching in this particular format ensures that the kids can have a lot of fun when they learn.”

The two franchises will be hunting for clients along with Imagine Music Instruction, 7211 Galilee Road, No. 100, and other local studios. Imagine co-owner Paul Lucia told me that he’s concerned because his locally grown store won’t have the profile of nationally marketed chain located in a pricey, high-profile retail locations.

“Any small-business owner is going to be disgruntled if someone comes in and says, ‘Oh, we’re going to … do your thing,’ ” Lucia said. “It’s a passion thing for us, and we’ve been very, very true to what we do. This isn’t necessarily about money, so much as it is about security and having a job that we love to do. So when I see investors coming in, it makes it tough.”

Lucia studied English and film in college, but he said he and his partners have studied and played multiple instruments. He said there’s been a renaissance for music in the wake of popular reality television shows such as “The Voice” and “American Idol,” something that the new market entrants are capitalizing upon in affluent suburbs.

Yi, however, said she discovered School of Rock while attending the annual National Association of Music Merchants Show where she and Kline, both Elk Grove residents, promote another of their businesses, Axe Heaven. That company produces miniature guitar replicas that legendary six-string slingers such as Eddie Van Halen and George Strait sell while on tour.

“We go to NAMM every year, the major music show, and every year we went there we’d see School of Rock kids play,” Yi said. “I said, ‘This is amazing. These are kids?’ You see these little ones with guitars bigger than them, but they can play. … I played violin for many years. I tried to learn how to play guitar. I can’t play like that. So, I said, ‘School of Rock has something.’ 

Kline wasn’t so certain, but he knew from firsthand experience that his wife and business partner’s hunches should be fully considered. So he went to School of Rock’s annual event for franchisees in Las Vegas, and after attending workshops and watching young rockers play, he came to the conclusion that the chain’s curriculum showed a deep respect for the history and range of rock ’n’ roll.

Kline’s father had been a blues and classic rock guitarist for many years, he said, and he wanted a school where students would learn about music from the era of prior generations.

Millie Kahane from Bach to Rock said that she and her husband thought students would gain confidence to make presentations or speeches in front of a crowd, and they also hoped their studio would give more options to parents facing cutbacks in their music programs at school.

However, Ernie Hills, director of the School of Music at Sacramento State, told me that local districts have improved their music programs in recent years, and so there are actually more offerings today than there were 10 years ago.

“The state of music education in the public schools is stronger today than it has been in a long time,” Hills said “and the prospects (for music students) are very good. I’m proud to say we’re having 100 percent placement of our students into the public schools teaching programs, and the schools are calling us up looking for good teachers. It’s a nice problem to have.”

Hills said he’s also spotted a number of current Sac State students on the teacher rolls at the Bach to Rock locations in Rocklin and Folsom. “The people teaching there are preprofessional,” he said, “though the ones that are our students are very good students and are well-qualified to teach within their performance areas.”

When choosing a private instructor, parents should look for individuals who can articulate their education goals for the student and whose goals match or at least come really close to what the parents’ goals are for their child, said Mike Blakeslee, executive director and chief executive officer of the National Association for Music Education. He also suggests that parents sit in on lessons.

“You’re looking for an educational experience,” Blakeslee said. “You can ask: ‘What makes me believe you can reach those goals?’ ... Just being a performer isn’t enough. They have to know how to transmit their ideas as a musician and develop a stage by stage, step by step the musical ability of the child.”

Editor’s note: This column was changed Aug. 22 to correct Mike Blakeslee’s title.

Cathie Anderson: 916-321-1193, @CathieA_SacBee

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