Music on wheels

LIHU‘E — A music teacher’s idea for a mobile music studio and classroom is rolling beyond lessons and teaching young artists to play together, while giving them an introduction to a potential music career.

“The Bandwagon” is a former airport shuttle bus that was converted into a mobile music education center, complete with instruments, recording equipment and even a sound booth for vocals. The “wagoneer,” Jeremy Hartshorn, drives it all over the island with stops for lessons in Lihu’e, Wailua, Kapa‘a, Anahola, Kilauea, Princeville, Po‘ipu and Kalaheo.

“Its about getting music to the kids at the right time of their lives, when they can really flourish with it and have another outlet for creativity,” Hartshorn said. “We teach kids the technology of today so when they go into the audio industry they will have a leg up in that realm.”

Hartshorn and his spouse Julie operate Small Town Coffee Shop in Kapa‘a. He has also been teaching private music lessons for 15 years, and realized that logistics was a real problem for students and parents.

The need to create an after-school music center for kids was clear, but Hartshorn said he  wasn’t sure where to locate. The Bandwagon parks around the island for weekly lessons and provides a facility to perform together with access to instruments and recording equipment.

“Finding a place to jam with friends is one of the biggest challenges for young musicians,” Hartshorn said. “The Bandwagon solves this by bringing the space to jam and record right to their driveway.”

Julie is the business manager and is also working at the nonprofit Bandwagon Foundation. It would allow fundraising for scholarships to pay for lessons and equipment. For now, the kids who can’t afford private lessons can get a needs-based scholarship or play in scheduled FreeJAMs around the island.

“It is still important that they come up with something, like helping wash the bus, or volunteering to teach at FreeJAMs,” Jeremy Hartshorn added. “I find it helps them stay serious about learning. I also accept cookies.”

The students helped with the shuttle bus conversion. They peeled paint and did other chores to help retired carpenter Howard Holt custom fit the cabinetry in the vehicle.

“It is definitely a community project,” he said.

Kaua‘i YMCA Director Tom Tannery said Hartshorn’s mobile music instruction is consistent with the YMCA commitment to youth, family and community. YMCA provides a safe and convenient spot for the Bandwagon, where kids can take classes and attend other YMCA programs at the same location.

“Jeremy provides students with music instruction and is a role model,” Tannery said.

Bailey Mackenzie, 12, was always interested in music and started working with Hartshorn two years ago. Her primary instrument is the guitar, but she has since learned other instruments.

“Music is important to me,” Mackenzie said. “I don’t think I could live without it.”

Abby Cox, 13, said she enjoys singing and met Mackenzie and Tylin Nakamura as members of the Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School Choir. The three have since collaborated on two songs.

Her mother, Dina Cox, said Hartshorn encourages and challenges the students. The bus even has a sound-proof recording booth.

“Its wonderful,” Dina Cox said of the Bandwagon. “

“There comes a point with learning an instrument when the next logical step is to play with other kids,” Hartshorn said.

Cameron Pollack, a 15-year-old student and member of the band Paradox Lockdown, was one of the first to record on the Bandwagon. He assisted Hartshorn with planning the on-bus studio.

The band used it as a second studio to produce their second CD, “Alive,” to be released in April.

Cameron Pollack’s mother, Lisa Pollack of Wailua, said Hartshorn is inspirational. “He is funny, serious and really well-versed in music. He has a very good ear.”

As the project grows, Hartshorn said he hopes to recruit instructors and maybe bring in more Bandwagons. For information, visit www.bandwagonstudios.com.

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