A Different Drummer

By Karie Rothschild

Justin Lack opens a rocking music school for kids in North Hollywood.

fun ideas for kids Justin Lack

Drummer Justin Lack is currently accepting new students, and forming new kid bands, at his music school. PHOTOS COURTESY JUSTIN LACK

In a small studio in North Hollywood, a young guy who could only be a musician is moving gear into the newly cleaned out space.

“It’s always been my goal to run my own music school,” says Justin Lack. “I want to teach kids my way, which is as much music appreciation as learning a specific instrument. It’s all about getting my students to be able to play with other people as soon as possible. I believe if a kid loves music, and feels the absolute euphoria of making some great music with friends, they will want to practice and get better.”

Lack says his goal is for Justin Lack Drums to have a full schedule of students, meaning 40 private drum and guitar students per week. “I also have a band program where I get students who play different instruments into the studio together to rock out,” Lack says. “The students pick the songs, name the band, book shows and make flyers – all with my help and guidance. And though his music school hasn’t been open long, he already has bands forming.

Lack is a graduate of the drum program at Berklee College of Music, where he had the opportunity to learn from drummers including jazz great John Ramsey, Winger drummer Rod Morgenstein, and Josh Grobin’s current touring drummer, Dave Dicenso.

Lack came to Los Angeles two years ago from Chicago, where he was head of the drum and band departments at The Rock House Music School. “That was an amazing experience,” he says. “Chris Karabas, the owner, had an amazing idea for a music school and as his first hire, I got to be in on the ground floor. I did everything from scheduling to teaching to band coaching. I even put up walls when we moved locations, and built some of the rooms!”

fun ideas for kids Justin Lack Drums

Drummer Justin Lack has played and toured with many bands, but says teaching kids is the thing that truly makes him happy.

At The Rock House, Lack also had the opportunity to teach students with special needs. “I remember one guitar student, he was on the spectrum,” Lack says. “A super-cool little dude, but he had some problems with motor skills and other issues. I taught him ‘Seven Nation Army’ by The White Stripes. For two months it was the only thing he would listen to or practice. When he finally played the tune properly, I cheered and jumped up and down. It was just the most rewarding thing to see this kid grow in front of my eyes.”

Lack decided his next move would be to L.A. “I had roughly 45 drum and guitar students and was coaching five bands every week. Things were going great, but I felt like I needed a new challenge,” he says. Someone backstage at an Iron Maiden/Alice Cooper concert in Chicago told him that L.A. was the place to b, and less than two months later, Lack was driving west.

Upon arrival, Lack contacted Morgan Karr, a singer and piano player with whom he had shared a stage in Chicago, who was heading up a charity called CommunicateMe. “We went to this high school in Compton and helped the students write and produce a musical variety show,” he says. “It ruled.”

Since moving to L.A., Lack has played at The Roxy, The Whiskey-A-Go-Go and The Viper Room as a member of the up-and-coming heavy metal band Enrot. He is also a member of The Drop D Boyz, a jam band that occasionally includes Chris Bruno (All My Children, The Fosters), Grammy Award winner Malcom Jamal Warner (Robert Glasper Expirement Featuring Lalah Hathaway) and Tommy Rojo (Dramarama).

Still, it’s his work with kids that makes him happiest. “I love the idea that I can take a 6- or 7-year-old who has no real opinion on music and show them The Ramones or The Clash for the first time,” he says. “I love the idea that I can take a kid with special needs who no one gave much of a chance to and teach them to truly express themselves through music. I work very hard, but I am a very lucky guy.”

See Justin Lack at work June 27, when he performs a 10 a.m. show at Books and Cookies in Santa Monica. The show promises to be rock-and-roll hits, dancing, singing and clapping, and he brings a few percussion instruments so that kids can join in. Get details here!

Visit www.JustinLackDrums.com for information about music lessons and keep up to date with his teaching, recording and live concert schedule. He is currently accepting students and new bands are forming now.

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