Face To Face With The Music Factory
Alright, Costa Mesa, ‘fess up. Haven’t we all – at one time or another – wanted to be a *ROCK*STAR*?
Touring the world in a blur of sound checks, screaming fans, stages, spotlights, guitar riffs, endless encores, and leather. Definitely leather.
Well, thanks to one local, Costa Mesa establishment, your rock dreams are about to become reality. (Leather not included.)
We’re talking about The Music Factory OC: School Of Music. They bill themselves as “the best private music lessons in Orange County.” But we think what really makes them special is that the owners rock – er, we mean, walk – the talk.
These ain’t your mama’s music teachers. These guys are the real deal. Working musicians who tour the city, the state, the world, in a sea of screaming fans… and then, school locals in the art of music the rest of the time. And with a huge lineup of talented musicians and artists on deck, it doesn’t get more “rock-thentic” than The Music Factory.
“I’ve been a musician my whole life,” said Thompson. “Started as a hobby player and then, ultimately, went pro. I’ve had other jobs, but as I was getting back into playing music full time, I wanted to do something that would allow me to be my own boss. I thought this would be a really fun and interesting business. It turned out to be way more rewarding and much cooler than I ever could have imagined.
“We opened in 2006, with just one of these suites,” said Thompson as he gestured to the maze of rooms and studios around him. “We’ve grown quite a bit since then! A lot of music studios will say that the teachers are professionals. I believe we’re the only one in the area that can really back that up. I tour the world. I’m on the radio. It doesn’t get more pro than that.
“Our first guitar teacher was Josh Partington, guitar player and song writer for Something Corporate, which was a huge band. Since then, the band eventually split up and he went to law school. He’s a full time attorney, but he still teaches guitar here one day a week because he loves doing it.
“The Music Factory has a pedigree and a history of real musicians who have really done it. That has helped attract a certain type of teacher to our school. I think that authenticity has transcended and translated into the way the school looks and the way the school feels.”
“I would say most music schools out there are kind of boring and very conservative,” continued Thompson. “We are much more of an artistic, open-expression, very inspirational type of environment. We teach guitar, drums, piano, voice… and DJ classes! I’m pretty sure we’re the only school in Orange County where you can take DJ classes.
“We do about 300 private lessons a week. And the people who come here – whether they’re 4 years old or a senior citizen – they don’t want to go to the standard, same old, boring place. They want to do something cool. We’re all about doing something cool.”
As much as the “cool factor” factors in, we noticed something else about this music school: people seemed to really be having a good time.
Our studio snooping revealed a treasure trove of talent – students and teachers alike – happily jamming away and working collaboratively on their personal music goals. Everywhere we listened, joyful noises greeted us. It’s a credit to the casual, familial culture Thompson and Rifenburgh have created.
“We love just talking to the students and the families,” said Thompson. “We get to know them really well. A lot of the kids have been coming here a long time. When they swing by for their lesson, they’ll pop into my office and just sit down, hang out, and chat about what’s going on in their lives.”
The Music Factory isn’t just about the learning; performing plays its part, giving students that real-world, on-stage experience you can’t get in a studio.
“We do solo recitals every 3 to 4 months. Those are just an opportunity for any student, no matter the level – total beginners or whatever – to have the performance experience. They can get up there and try anything. The little kids will play ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ on the piano or whatever they’ve been working on. We have adult students get up there and sing and play guitar and do a whole song.
“Then we also do band performances, and those are really cool. We do 2 to 3 of those a year. At our school, the students can volunteer to be in one of the bands. They rehearse for 8 to 10 weeks, and then we do a big concert at a club. We pack it. We’ll get 300 people there to see them. It’s amazing!”
Despite the rock-star mystique, both Thompson and Rifenburgh vibe like really good guys who love what they do and genuinely care about the students.
“When we do one of our recitals, it’s become more gratifying for me to see the students having that experience than for me to have it for myself,” said Rifenburgh. “You know, I’m traveling to play overseas. I’m doing big festivals and stuff, and still, I’m way more excited to see them on stage. It takes me back to when it was new for me.”
“It’s fun to see the kids grow up,” added Thompson. “Had a phone call from a dad who said, ‘Yeah, we have to stop drum lessons because he’s going off to college.’ I’m thinking, ‘Man, that kid was like 12 when he started here!’ That’s definitely the best part.”
I Heart Costa Mesa couldn’t let real musicians get away without first asking about their own favorite bands.
“Oh man, that’s hard,” said Rifenburgh. “Well, I’ve been listening to a ton of country music and one of my favorites right now is Jason Aldean. And then old-school, guilty-pleasure stuff? Mötley Crüe and Poison. They’re not on the playlist all the time, but if it comes on? I’m turnin’ it up.”
“Music, for me, just impacts so many different things,” said Thompson. “So on any given day, when you ask me this question, the answer will change. Right now, I’ve been listening to The White Buffalo – a friend turned me onto that. But all-time favorites? The Police, for sure, but The Clash is probably top spot.”
Now that we were up on the school, the music careers and favorite bands… we asked if there was anything else Costa Mesa need to know about The Music Factory OC.
“Corey loves to vacuum,” shared Thompson.
“Well, it’s good to clean the carpets and my mind,” agreed Rifenburgh. “Instead of thinking all time, I can just chill out and vacuum for a minute and be zen with my vacuum cleaner before everybody gets here.”
“Oh, and I’m a Gemini,” Thompson quipped with a wink.
So there you have it. If you’re ready to rock and want to learn from the best, we see music, very clean carpets and at least one Gemini in your future. Thank you, Music Factory OC, for letting us backstage into all the good you’re doing. Rock on! ♥
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