Brad McLemore has been a musician most of his life. In college, he started giving guitar lessons, and once out of school he continued teaching, playing gigs, and touring.
“After relocating with my family to Minneapolis, I started working at the Linden Hills House of Music in 2008 and after a year the owner offered me the chance to purchase it,” says Brad. “I did, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.”
A good percentage of the school’s students are kids aged 5 years and older, including teens, but there are plenty of adults too. “A lot of adults feel that they are too old to learn, but that’s not true,” he says. “For adults who do it slowly and enjoy it, it becomes more like a meditative type of thing.”
There are also a lot of studies, he adds, on how music is a way to focus and use other parts of the brain, which benefits not just older people, but teens with learning challenges and anxieties as well. “It instills a confidence that you can learn new things. I think that this is becoming more understood instead of music being just about entertainment. There’s that, of course, but there’s definitely a healing and inner growth aspect to it too.”
Some people take lessons in order to play professionally one day, while for others, playing an instrument clicks for them and they enjoy it. For others, their parents want them to experience it.
The classes are mostly private, but group sessions are also offered. Many of the teachers have been with House of Music for years. “The teachers are really the core of this business,” says Brad. “My goal is to have a large variety of teachers that offer everything from different instruments to different teaching styles. I believe there isn’t one way to teach any particular instrument.”
Brad also tries to match teacher personalities to that of the student. “It goes beyond just learning an instrument; its connecting with someone that they feel helps them grow as a person.”
In addition to the semester-long classes during the school year, there are also rock band camps offered throughout the summer. “We try to give them an experience of really being in a band,” says Brad. “And, we don’t dictate what songs they’re going to learn. We get to know the kids before the camp starts, try to understand what music they like and make them a big part of choosing what they’re going to play.”
After learning a number of songs, they perform at a local venue. Parents, he says, are always amazed at what their kids can do in a short amount of time. “For the bigger picture, we hope that kids are excited about it and want to connect with other kids and start bands, and play and have shows.”
Since House of Music offers lessons on a large variety of instruments, their instructors encourage people who don’t know which instrument they would like to play to try more than one instrument. “We suggest they choose one instrument for a semester, and if they’re not connecting to it, to then try a different one the next semester,” says Brad. “Guitar and piano are the top two, and drums are also very popular. Voice too, partly because of all the singing competitions on television and the popularity of musicals.”
One of the things he believes makes their school stand out is how they integrate into surrounding communities. “That’s what I feel is the bonus side with House of Music. For kids who want to play in a band, I try to provide them with a lot of opportunities. We have a very strong parks system so there are a lot of events. In our particular neighborhood we have many events that our classes sort of culminate around. So, at the end of the class, the students wind up performing at the Edina Art Fair, WoofStock, or other local events.”
House of Music also provides live music for the Linden Hills Festival, being held on September 18 this year, which among other things has silent auctions that help local charities or organizations. “We provide the music all day,” says Brad. “The students, teachers or other friends in the community play. One of our bands, 612LIVE, became very well known in the area. There is a huge talent show every summer at the Minnesota State Fair, and they finished second one summer and won the whole thing the next summer.”
Like many other businesses and schools, they had to pivot due to COVID-19 and hold virtual lessons. “The teachers had to shift to a new way of teaching online,” says Brad. “In the long run, I think that’s going to make us all better teachers because we just added one more way of connecting with students.”
Most classes are now being given in person, and by the fall he expects things to be pretty much back to normal.
To find out more about House of Music and to sign up for classes, go to www.lhhouseofmusic.com/. 4948 Washburn Ave S., Minneapolis.