WALLINGFORD — A new music school is taking over a building on Center Street, filling each room with color, instruments and sound.
Rock House School of Music is expanding from its West Haven location to 393 Center St., a house-turned-office building built in 1890 on the corner of Fair Street.
Owners John and Cathy McCarthy purchased the 3,400-square-foot building last month. They are in the process of converting the offices into multi-purpose studios for private music lessons. A grand opening is planned for the first weekend of June.
“When we saw the building, we just fell in love with it,” said John McCarthy, who founded the school in his parents’ house while still in high school. “I can’t wait to have all the rooms really rocking. It just is going to be so cool.”
McCarthy has published more than 120 music instruction books and video programs.
Although focused on rock, the school offers lessons in a variety genres on several instruments, including guitar, bass, piano and drums, as well as singing.
In addition to individual music lessons, live performance rooms allow students to practice full songs together.
“If a student is working on, say, ‘Seven Nation Army’ on guitar,” McCarthy said, “we try to get a bass player, a singer, a drummer all to learn the same song.”
All 15 instructors are performing musicians who are certified by the school to teach, McCarthy said.
“We really search for the greatest players around the state,” he said.
McCarthy plans to maintain the West Haven location, which draws more than 150 students a week from the surrounding towns.
The school offers lessons for all ages, including an early music program for children ages 4 to 7 called Little Rockers.
Held in the “green screen room,” the children’s class follows a book of McCarthy’s curriculum.
“It’s called the pre-schematic stage of artistic learning,” he said. “It’s before they actually play, they understand the music. That really helps them to excel.”
In addition to learning how to play, students have the chance to learn how to record, mix and produce music as well, using audio production computer programs.
McCarthy said he’s spending their “whole life savings,” close to half a million dollars, on the school, which is not only an investment in the building, but also the students and local arts community, he said.
The school will serve as the office for the McCarthys’ nonprofit organization Teach Kids Music, which raises money to fund music programs and provide instruments, instruction and performance opportunities for children that need assistance.
They also run festivals, youth open mics and many other events that have attracted musicians including Doug Wimbish and Will Calhoun of Living Colour, Paul Pesco who’s played with Madonna and Hall & Oates, and Leo Nocentelli of the Meters.
“In West Haven,” McCarthy said, “we raised over $20,000 for local music programs over the past few years. We hope to do the same in Wallingford.”
Tim Ryan, the town’s economic development specialist, said Tuesday that he’s met with McCarthy.
While there are a couple other music studios in town, the new school could bring more families downtown, Ryan said.
“The name certainly appeals to a younger clientele,” he said. “What makes a town center strong is a variety of different types of businesses. It’s yet to be seen, but I think that’s a nice addition.”