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By Thomas J. Sullivan–
Ian La Tondre has been the owner of Rock Inc. on Auburn Boulevard since 2014, being handed the keys by Citrus Heights musician Zac Diebels who first opened the location in 2008.
By his early twenties, Diebel’s rock band Simon Says was signed to a major label and touring the world playing alongside groups such as Kid Rock, Deftones and Filter. After 10 years on the road, Diebel wanted to have a job close to home.
So, he created Rock Inc., in Citrus Heights at 7366 Auburn Blvd., Suite 2 as an official school of music and a full recording studio.
Rock Inc. remains well-known in the Sacramento region and received favorable press during its early years. Framed news articles and posters still adorn the school’s front lobby.
When Diebel decided to move on from Rock Inc. and chose to pass ownership of his creation on to one of his young students, La Tondre, then 21, welcomed the challenge.
“I had a lot to learn,” La Tondre said. He shared Diebel’s passion for his music and the business he created.
“Zac was a huge help to us during our first-year learning to manage the business. We had a turn-key business to start with, so I guess I was lucky in that respect. As we continued Rock Inc. from what Zac created, we wanted to instill the same values we both felt important,” he said.
Diebels still stops in from time to time to see how his young protégé is doing. La Tondre said he’s proud of the legacy which Diebels has left him.
“Our staff and I continue to focus our teaching abilities on audio production, guitar, bass, vocals, and piano,” La Tondre said. “We also have a fully-functional studio perfect for tracking, mixing, and mastering anything from Hip-Hop to live band tracking.”
La Tondre, wearing a vintage Grateful Dead concert t-shirt, graduated from Bella Vista High, and said he tried one semester at Serra College before deciding that college wasn’t for him. Music, he said, was his first career choice. “I took private lessons from the age of 12 and learned to play the bass, guitar, drums and to sing. I still do.”
Developing fluency with their instrument is one of La Tondre’s chief goals for his students.
“Our emphasis is on personal creativity. I’d like them to feel the same joy we as their teachers feel in the emotional expression of music. It is, after all, a universal language.”
Teaching duties are split between instrument instruction and audio production. The school has four practice rooms in addition to its recording studio.
La Tondre recognizes that more and more musicians are becoming self-sufficient in handling all aspects of the music production creative process. So too, has the definition of what a musician is, in his opinion.
“There’s a lot of creativity in hip-hop in the development of tracks and creating beats,” he said. “The sound of rhythm is everywhere, and the studio is the place where building those beats becomes possible.”
His overall student retention rate since taking over ownership of Rock Inc. has remained high, he said. “We try to get our students who start here on to the next level of musicianship. They typically attend weekly classes for about seven months.”
“We’ve been successful building relationships with local musicians who have been long-time students here.”
His current students are the best source for referrals, and they frequently stop back in with their friends to our studios, he said. “Some have become new students and they regularly come here to work on their own projects.”
La Tondre looks forward to welcoming younger and older musicians who have yet to discover Rock Inc. “Our philosophy is that learning music of any genre should be a fun and exciting experience.” La Tondre said.
“We teach all kinds of styles of music to all ages. Our attitude is all rock n’ roll, but our students are interested in everything from rap to Mozart,” he said. “We want our practice studios to be a welcoming place for all skill levels — whether they’re returning to their instrument after many years, or just starting out.”
The young owner of Rock Inc. looks forward to growing his business within the community. La Tondre makes regular presentations to area high schools and middle schools on their “Career Days” to encourage young students who feel the same urge he felt at a young age to play music.
What’s ahead for Rock Inc?
“We’re on track to do much more studio work and to make records. While rock music is the foundation of what Rock Inc. still is, we love all kinds of music. Hip-Hop is still the fastest growing form of music and there are a lot of rising artists in the Citrus Heights and greater Sacramento area.”
Rock Inc. offers half-hour standard lessons and studio time for projects on an hourly basis. The school averages 40 to 50 students per week. Assignments, homework and a recommendation to practice a minimum of 30 minutes each day are expected from all students.
The school is open for student instruction from 2 to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, Saturday by appointment only and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m. A Groupon coupon offers four weekly 30-minute music lessons at Rock Inc. for $65 and is available through their web site at: RockIncMusic.com.
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