Ten years into giving young and old musicians alike a chance to perform in real rock bands, Academy of Rock Music owner Ron Lowder says this wasn’t where he expected his career to take him.
“I didn’t see myself as a teacher,” the Brooklyn native says in his Newport News studio, Lowder Sound.
For 10 years, Lowder has run the Academy of Rock Music out of his recording studios in Newport News and in Virginia Beach, working with students and adults to form bands and play cover songs live.
Picking up a set of drumsticks at a young age, Lowder says he knew he was musically inclined and decided to study at Berklee School of Music.
“The goal was to be a rock star,” he says with a laugh.
After college, Lowder found himself in Brooklyn answering an advertisement in the Village Voice to teach music lessons out of a small music shop in Queens.
After a few years, he moved back to Hampton Roads.
“I kind of had an itch to open my own little lesson facility,” he says.
What started as private lessons turned into a school of rock of sorts, which he aptly named the Academy of Rock Music in 2007.
“There was nothing like this that existed when I was a younger musician,” he says, reflecting on his time playing with his high school friends out of his parents’ garage.
At Academy of Rock Music, Lowder groups musicians based on age and skill level, and the band learns several cover songs over a semester. The band performs twice during the semester at live music venues around Hampton Roads at places such as the Norva Theatre.
Lowder provides many of the instruments and equipment and goes to each live music performance.
He says he has had some bands stay together and continue in his program for several semesters.
“Some of the bands have actually learned 60, 70, 80 songs and then express an interest to write original music,” he says.
Lowder works with the bands to market themselves and teaches them how to manage and book gigs.
While Lowder says he does not face too much competition, at least in Newport News, the challenge lies in the fact that according to him, “the music scene is horrible” in Hampton Roads.
He says he encourages his students to pursue their music in Richmond after college, and he has plans to expand his Academy of Rock to Virginia’s capital this spring.
For now, Lowder—who has four children under the age of 10 who keep him busy when he’s not working—says he wants to grow the number of students in the Academy of Rock Music and boost interest.
He says that’s one thing he has learned in 10 years—“you’ve got to keep getting the word out.”
TO THE POINT:
The Academy of Rock Music
Contact: Ron Lowder
Address: 11846 Tug Boat Ln., Ste. B, Newport News, VA 23606