Pandemic leads three couples to launch rock music school
Opening a physical location for a collaborative business can seem like a risky decision during the peak months of the pandemic. But for Indianapolis-based Rock Garage, that seemed like the only way forward.
In fact, the pandemic itself led to the founding of the company, which offers music lessons as well as a program that places musicians of all ages and backgrounds – from beginners to seasoned guitarists, drummers and singers. – in rock groups.
The founders, three music-inclined couples, were frustrated with the lack of options for jamming and teaching music during the shutdown and then months of restrictions.
So in June 2020 they opened Rock Garage, first in a temporary location and then in September in some office building at 8115 Center Run Road in Castleton.
The founders describe the company as a music school. But it offers more than lessons. Musicians – and aspiring musicians – pay for memberships that place them in a band.
Groups receive advice from music directors and can practice, perform and create their own music. They choose a band name and some perform in independent shows outside of Rock Garage. Members range from pre-teens to 80 years old.
Preston and Rocky Nash, two of the company’s six owners and founders, started a similar program at a music retailer in Indianapolis in 2011. When the pandemic hit, that retailer’s hours changed and it no longer offered. group classes, which meant the Nashes had no place to run their school.
But Preston, who has been teaching music since the 1990s, believed rehearsals and classes could still be done safely, with social distancing and a disinfection protocol. So last summer he and Rocky found a warehouse in Indianapolis to start teaching again.
In the meantime, Preston and his friend Dave Foellinger started an online forum called “Rock Garage” which allowed musicians who had been on the previous program to stay in touch and share ideas.
Eventually, they combined the two efforts and decided to open a permanent location in Castleton.
“We didn’t just get together one day and say, ‘Hey let’s open up a school called Rock Garage,’” said Preston Nash. “It has evolved with the circumstances, and now we’re at a point where I don’t think any of us expected such rapid growth.”
The six founders – the Nashes, Dave and Kate Foellinger, and Steve and Kimberly Klinger – funded the start-up and have since seen membership numbers grow from about 20 groups to 42. (Kimberly Klinger is a sales representative at IBJ Media Co. , which owns IBJ.)
The company has been profitable since its inception and continues to experience membership growth.
“The three of us all brought different things to the table,” said Dave Foellinger. “I said, ‘Let’s take all the risk! So in that sense, it’s really an old-fashioned startup.
Rock Garage is in a long, low-rise retail and office building just south of a Goodyear Auto Service store off 82nd Street East, between Hwy 69 and Hwy 465. Nothing about the outside screams rock ‘n’ roll, but a large mural inside the main entrance advertises the location as a music house.
Rooms containing drums, electric and acoustic guitars, as well as recording consoles and full keyboards are distributed throughout the 2,800 square foot facility.
Rock Garage offers both memberships and paid courses.
Memberships are generally divided into 13 week sessions with several options for lessons and group placement. A basic subscription costs $ 300 (a little more if a customer pays in installments). The 13-week Platinum and Double Platinum subscriptions cost $ 540 and $ 765, respectively.
Private lessons, which cost $ 30 for half an hour or $ 55 for an hour, are offered for guitar, bass, drums, vocals, banjo, mandolin, and ukulele.
But the magic isn’t in the lessons themselves. It’s in the bands — and the community that has developed among the people who participate in them. This is a big reason the founders place great emphasis on carefully selecting groups of people who they believe will bring positive chemistry to a group.
“Having a rock music program, on paper, doesn’t really reinvent fire,” Preston said. “But the way we do it, I think, sets us apart from other programs. We’re really trying to make it a microcosm of what a concert musician really is. There is something to associate with chemistry; a group develops its own personality, and this program is like being in a real group.
Foellinger and Nash say the job is reinforced by new members who join on the recommendation of an existing client.
Rock Garage is also adding a full production recording studio that will include a recording console that was once owned by keyboardist Kenny Rogers.
The studio will allow groups to produce recordings of their music and will offer the opportunity to give recording lessons. The owners also plan to rent the studio to outside groups when not in use.
And they’re looking to add specialized music lessons, including music theory, and to offer additional services, like virtual lessons.
Preston and Rocky Nash work full time for the company and have four other full time group instructors and coaches.
Paul Giefing, who sings and is the lead guitarist for Indianapolis-based band Rhino Down, met the Nashes while teaching in the store 2.5 years ago. He has since followed them to the Rock Garage.
Giefing, a commercial banker, said the program gave him a path for his musical passion and allowed him to be part of a rock community. Her son is also a member of Rock Garage.
“It starts with the leadership of the place, bringing out the best in people,” he said. “Preston and Rocky know the industry, but they run the program with a heart. They’ve created an environment where when you show up you want to grow and learn.
Ben Howard sings for the Doppelganger band and plays drums for a band called Plank. Howard, 20, is part of the Youth Orchestra Program, Under 21. Howard had been on the Nashes’ previous schedule since 2017 and followed them to Rock Garage.
“Everyone knows everyone, and I think that’s what makes them unique,” Howard said. “I’ve seen music programs where you go, you see your teacher, and you practice in a group. Here, it’s family. You get one-on-one time. “•