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Performing Art
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Jul. 1, 2009 8 years ago

Sarasota's school of rock

by: Heidi Kurpiela Contributing Writer

Julio Madrid may not be a musician, but he has a rock star’s grip on the industry’s age-old, garage-band concept.

Madrid, a salesman at The Met, an upscale clothing boutique on St. Armands Circle, has leased a 6,000-square-foot warehouse on Orange Avenue near Gillespie Park. His plans for the warehouse are already under way, as evidenced by the drum set, keyboard, speakers and microphone set up inside the building and the bright-blue “Let’s Rock Sarasota” banner hanging outside.

The 44-year-old Panama native has opened a music school down the road from Sarasota Military Academy. The school, although primarily focused on schooling children in the art of rock ’n’ roll, is also open to adults.

“Sarasota has been dominated by classical music for so long,” Madrid says. “I wanted to create a place where kids could come together to learn music from all backgrounds.”

He brought on an eclectic staff of six professional musicians, including bassists, guitar players, drummers and a substitute high-school music teacher with a background in classical piano and vocal instruction. The faculty’s connections and resumes run a gamut of experience that includes jamming with The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and Eddie Van Halen to touring royal conservatories in Russia.

The school is inclusive and laidback with an edge that young rockers might find appealing.

“Most high-school bands break up because kids don’t know how to work together,” Madrid says. “They fight or parents get in the way. It’s hard for a parent when a kid says he’s going to band practice in some other kid’s garage. You don’t know what they’re doing in there or if they’re being supervised.”
Let’s Rock Sarasota opened in April as a vocational music school. Instructors have already begun teaching guitar and piano lessons out of the building.

“We’ve got this 3-year-old drummer prodigy who can play anything,” Madrid says. “I’ve never seen a little kid keep a rhythm like this. It’s amazing.”

Madrid, who doesn’t have any children himself, says he doesn’t want to teach classes or manage music careers. He simply wants to provide a safe place for high-school bands to flourish. He’s already begun meeting with established acts, including a trio of brothers who play Southern rock music in South Sarasota County.

Eventually he’d like to fill out the mostly empty warehouse with a recording studio and host composition classes and drum circles. He says his dream is to form a collaborative band of local musicians — regardless of age. Even better, Madrid says he’d like to learn how to play an instrument himself.


Learning to rock ’n’ roll

Let’s Rock Sarasota offers drum, guitar, bass, voice and keyboard lessons starting at $35. Band ensemble lessons start at $20 per session. For more information about the school, visit or call 870-7273.

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