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Students Groove at American Rock School in New Tampa

Musicians young and old sharpen their skills at a Tampa Palms school notorious for teaching to a louder beat.

Dave Arazmo will never let rock die in Tampa.

The owner and instructor at – 15349 Amberly Drive – believes “rocking” makes great musicians. Both a gut feeling and an attitude, rock is the foundation of the school’s curriculum whether you play garage-band guitar or first-chair flute.

Arazmo began putting his philosophy to work in 2003, opening his original music school off Hillsborough Avenue. Enough kids and adults grooved through his lessons, prompting Arazmo to open his New Tampa location in 2007. He has survived a tough economy and Guitar Hero with a full lineup of instructors teaching most instruments needed to start a band or an orchestra.

Despite the name, the school does not discriminate against other forms of music. The staff teaches jazz, blues, country and classical to all ages and aptitudes. Arazmo takes a holistic approach to development and nudges students to explore different styles of music.

“Wherever you want to go with your music, wherever that may be,” said Arazmo.

Beyond the venerable six-string guitar, American Rock School offers private lessons in bass guitar, drums, piano, violin, voice and just about any wind instrument you can blow out of.

Many of those instruments – and the young rockers behind them - turn into house bands. Arazmo applies what he teaches, encouraging students to collaborate and play at his school’s recitals. “Get some same-minded musicians together that share the vision, passion and knowledge of music,” said Arazmo.

Some groups stay together and play around Tampa. Arazmo thinks the band experience differentiates American Rock School from one-on-one lessons taught by freelance instructors.

“We don’t want to be Subway … cookie cutter,” said Arazmo.

When hiring instructors, Arazmo is choosy. You might play Metallica or Mozart note for note, but can you teach it? Arazmo ambushes applicants with a music theory test weeding out the pretenders. The survivors – some with Arazmo for eight years - form a team of seasoned professionals dedicated to their craft and passionate about teaching. And the staff promises a lot of good times along the way.

Mel Steiner, a graduate music student at the University of South Florida, teaches flute, piano and vocals. The American Rock School had two things she was seeking. “The experience of having a full studio,” said Steiner. Plus a platform to share her education with aspiring musicians. “This place allows me to apply what I’ve been learning from my degrees.”

However, a music career must start somewhere. Jimmy Page did not just buy a guitar and start Led Zeppelin. Arazmo and his staff keep it simple in the beginning: pick a song stuck in your head and play over it.

“Start with a familiar song as soon as you can,” said Arazmo. “You’ll know when you’re playing it right.”

Initial licks and chord progressions are tough enough, so Arazmo keeps the rocking fun and familiar. Dreaded music theory comes later. “Can’t talk about theory without application,” said Arazmo.

Fun and familiar help define Arazmo. He laughs easily and loves his band’s regular gig at Gators in John’s Pass. He’s a Tampa Bay local, too, bringing years of teaching experience over the bridge from Pinellas County to crank up the Hillsborough location.

But since small businesses are not all fun and games, Arazmo leans heavily on his wife Mari’s business IQ. He credits Mari with tightening the screws on the day-to-day operations so he can focus on the students. You sense American Rock School may not exist without her.

Coach or proprietor, Arazmo preaches teamwork from bands to business and back again. Whether famous or not, great musicians are legendary for grinding out long hours of practice – playing until their fingers bleed. “Woodshedding” is the industry term. Really rocking can be a long and winding road. Arazmo thinks parents can bridge the gap between beginner’s noise and beautiful music, between the first lesson and Madison Square Garden.

“Be subtle about your expectations. Parents can be the best cheerleaders,” said Arazmo.

Arazmo points to a prized pupil, proving how parents can boost a child’s musical journey. Billy Norris, Billboard-artist Gavin DeGraw’s guitarist, studied under Arazmo for more than five years and later received a scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music. The raw talent was there, but Norris had some help.

“He’s a product of a supportive music family,” said Arazmo.

As the school gains momentum, Arazmo likes where he sits. The name, the identity, the recitals, he likes everything keeping him a beat apart from the competition. “We have a pretty good brand and philosophy,” said Arazmo.

The philosophy drives the school’s marketing message. “The term rock describes more than just a style of music, it refers to our commitment: that you will rock.”

From The Beatles to Black Sabbath to Beethoven, that is a commitment worth playing for. And Dave Arazmo will never break it.

More Information

Phone: (813) 558-6683 
Address: 15349 Amberly Drive
Web: www.americanrockschool.com

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