Concealed at the very end of an old alley in downtown San Luis Obispo is a place where guitarists are trained and music is created.

Owned by married couple Darren and Jessie Clarke, the newly renovated and expanded interior of Music Lab Guitar School is nothing like the building’s run-down exterior would suggest.

Lavished with modern purple walls, top-quality recording equipment, and a maze of rooms, the studio provides a professional learning environment for both children and adults.

“I always loved training people and kind of investing people,” said Darren, who has been in the music industry his entire life. “It’s always exciting to see people grow as musicians.”

The five-year-old guitar specialty school’s Friday open house will showcase its student musicians.

“People hear about us, but they don’t know where we are because we’re tucked away down this alley,” Jessie said. “And it’s a good opportunity for the people in the community to come and have a look around and see our place.”

But even more importantly than publicizing their school, the Clarkes want to give their students a chance to shine on stage.

“We’re always trying to create opportunities for our students, and so it’s all about giving them a platform to practice performing,” Jessie said.

About 20 students will perform at the open house from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m., including anything from what Jessie described as “crazy fast guitarists” to “sensitive songwriter types.”

“We kind of approach it like it’s a gig or a concert, rather than like it’s a recital,” Darren said. “It’s more of a real-life experience of what it’s like to perform at a showcase.”

In total, there are about 100 students enrolled at Music Lab and sessions are on a quarterly rotation. Students enroll in labs based on skill level and learn all different aspects of music industry- from songwriting, to production, to recording, to performance.

“Basically, our philosophy is that it’s more than education,” Darren said. “When you come here you learn a lot of stuff, but music is about so much more than just learning theory- it’s about interacting with people. It’s about being creative.”

The local school has an exclusive affiliation with the Academy of Contemporary Music in London where Darren got his music business degree.

“I’m not exaggerating when I say that they’re world leaders in music industry education,” Jessie said.

Through the affiliation, Music Lab is able to host a Rock Band Academy on Saturdays Sept. through April where students ages 12 to 15 learn practical live performance techniques.

Jonathan Sorbello is one of the lab’s newest teachers. He joined the team after teaching private lessons for 10 years.

“The experience has been great,” Sorbello said. “There’s a lot of resources here from recording to sheet music to tabs. It’s just really tailoring to the individual need of the student. That’s what I really like.”

Sorbello and his yet-to-be-named band will be among the performers during Friday’s open house at Music Lab located at 265 Pacific St., Unit C.

As its Web site states on a specialized directions page, “You can only see us if you look down the alley!”

And because San Luis Obispo’s city ordinance prohibits buildings from posting signs above their building’s skyline, Music Lab is likely to stay hidden.

Despite the seeming inconvenience of the lab’s location, the isolation of the building keeps the school traffic-free for a quiet musical experience, Jessie said.

“Because we just expanded, I think we’ll be here for a long time,” she said. “We have a very big vision.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *