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Grass Lake School of (Rock) Music

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Wanna rock?

Enrollment for music lessons at the new Grass Lake School of Music is now open.   

Founded by long-time Grass Lakers Kyle and Terri Neely, the school is intended to draw students ages six to sixty.  The Neelys plan to open their “ instrumental petting zoo” on March first.

“It’s moved really fast and we’ve always wanted to do this,” said Terri, 40, who left her job as a property manager in Ann Arbor to devote time to managing the school with Kyle.

“The interest seems to be big,” she said.  “It’s now or never; that’s the way to go.”   

Their impetus stems from the adage “build it and they will come.”  It can be difficult for parents to shuttle the kids from school to athletic events and then drive outside of town for music lessons.  Now future Stevie Ray Vaughns and Woody Guthries won’t have to.

Recently the Neelys signed a lease for the building at 126 Brown Street, formerly Our Jardin, a cold-press juice market, which closed last year.  Terri said she and her husband knew that the 1100 square-feet location was the place to be.  “It was meant to be,” she said.  “Ours is truly a destination business.  We don’t need to be on the main drag and there’s no foot traffic.”

As promoter Terri is on the business end of the school, “to find the right learner for the right instructor,” she said.  “It’s the outlet they need, a definite place for music education. We’re opening in a rural area but the demand is greater in a rural area.  People don’t want to drive miles for a lesson when it’s right in their back yard.”   

Kyle teaches music at Jackson College and Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, from where he hails.  He is a 2000 graduate of Eastern Michigan University where he studied classical guitar.

Tall and sporting a pair of harness boots and Ray-Bans, Kyle, 50, played guitar with Sponge, a group that featured “revolving bass players” in the 90s before MTV jumped the shark after video killed the radio star.

Kyle names Kiss and Foreigner as primary influences when he was learning how to play.  Queen?  “Absolutely,” he said.  “Every music needs tone and color.  I love groups that play the right thing.  If I wasn’t out playing I’d be miserable.  I’ve been doing this a long time and I’m good at it, and am pretty excited about the school.”

The GLSM isn’t just for kids in the community.  Terri estimated that forty percent of the studentry are likely to be Baby Boomers who wish they’d started taking lessons when they first heard “I Want to Hold Your Hand” or the guitar licks of Keith Richards—the Lazarus of the rock world—on “Jumping Jack Flash.”  In 1964 the Mop Tops invaded American radio, nearly overthrowing the King and everybody wanted to be in a band.     

During the interview talk turned to a discussion of the Pantheon of the Monsters of American Rock; that was by design.  Terri opined that all bands are homegrown.  Singers are important but the sound and style defines the group, Kyle said, say, with Van Halen.  Eddie Van Halen’s clean, fast technique defines their music whether the front man is David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar.  Hagar was a team player but Roth was a showman who wheedled his way back in, relegating the other one to an asterisk in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.       

I can’t write without listening to music.  Bob Dylan was sort of like that only in reverse, the first contemporary rock musician who wrote his lyrics on a typewriter rather than India ink with a quill pen like Robert Plant.  Kyle said he prefers listening to Dylan songs when somebody else performs them.  We agreed to disagree.       

When it comes down to it it’s about rock-ability, the influence that music exerts on different people in different ways.  Nobody mobs the woodcutter and clambers for their autographs and you’ll never hear “Stairway to Heaven” in an elevator unless you’ve been taking something you shouldn’t.

The Neelys said they are looking to incorporate the school so that they can offer sliding scale lesson fees and scholarships.  Rates are $30 per half hour paid monthly in advance. 15% multi sibling discount.

On a recent Friday night Kyle played a set at Roaming Goat Coffee, a well-attended gig, sitting room only with hardly a space of bare floor.  He trotted out a Howard Roberts guitar, the Holy Grail of hollow-bodied guitars, as an understudy sat close by.

Mason Busch, age nine, said he said he wanted to learn how to play the guitar “to feel like what it’s like to be in front of the crowd.”  I don’t think he was talking about the Human League song.  Mason’s mother Katie said that she is happy that a local music school is opening in Grass Lake.  “There’s nothing else nearby, nowhere to go,” she said.  “It’s the right time and the right place.”     

The Neelys are confident that the Grass Lake School of Music will become a rock of ages.  Their Facebook page boasts nearly 500 “likes.”  Add more of them by checking them out on Facebook, and visiting their website at

The school is located at 126 Brown Street in Grass Lake. 734-355-7237

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