Passing on the passion: Hastings man teaches music in unique format
For the past year and a half, Dan Pettit has been giving guitar, drum and bass guitar lessons out of his home outside of Hastings. This week, he opened a new space downtown.
Pettit offers private lessons, "garage band" sessions and recording services. He had been teaching out of a custom-built, sound proof studio in his home, but demand has been growing, especially for the garage band sessions.
"I knew I needed to get something rolling a bit bigger than my home," he said.
His wife was looking at space for her salon, Whoop Dee Do Hair Studio, and while she was looking at the old armory building, Pettit decided to ask about additional space for his music studio. Last week, he moved into one of the rooms at 121 E. Third St.
So far, his students and their parents are loving his decision to move downtown. Parents can drop of their children for lessons and go run errands, and some of the students are close enough to get there without a vehicle.
"Everyone really loved it," Pettit said.
A lifetime of music
Pettit has been in love with music since he was a kid. At age 11, he got his first drum set. He had some lessons on how to read music, but he taught himself how to play. At age 15 he joined a professional country band in Iowa, where he grew up.
"I was making money and playing in a band from 15 to 18," he said.
While he played drums, he picked up guitar, bass and piano. When he was 15 he also started teaching. His first student was a band member's son, he said, and early on his lessons were given to the children of family friends. When he moved to Minneapolis to attend music school, he started getting into the local music circles and giving lessons in people's homes on a more formal basis.
Pettit attended Music Tech in Minneapolis, which is now the McNally Smith College of Music. While he was there he continued to play in various bands in school and outside of it. He'd play in all sorts of genres, including country, jazz, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and rock. There's really no genre he doesn't like, he said, and the only thing that will turn him off to music is bad content.
"I just love music," he said.
For three years, Pettit gave private music lessons at Virtuosos Music Academy. He also taught ensemble classes.
Two years ago, Pettit's marriage brought him to the Hastings area. About a year and a half ago, he started giving formal lessons of his own.
Pettit's lessons go beyond typical, he said. While he does private lessons with his students, he also does what he calls "garage band" sessions. In the music world, "garage band" is a loose term referring to musicians getting together and practicing songs, he explained. When he was in college, they called them ensembles. But he wanted a name that meant more to his students. In the garage band sessions, a group of students get together and play songs together. It's Pettit's way of taking traditional music lessons a step further by adding the teamwork and performance elements. And if a group doesn't have enough people to fill all the parts, Pettit will step in himself to fill in the gaps.
During the summer, Pettit holds garage band camps, during which students meet three hours a day Monday through Friday to practice. At the end of the season, they get to perform in a downtown St. Paul club with the full setup - a stage, lights, sound man and everything else associated with a professional show.
"How often does a 15- or 11-year-old get to play for a packed house?" he said.
Another aspect to Pettit's studio is the computer. It's not an especially remarkable computer in itself, but on it is professional studio quality recording software. Pettit's students can play into the computer, record tracks and build songs right there in Pettit's studio. He can burn a CD of their music the same day, if they want.
Pettit's business is taking off just the way he hoped.
"It's already catching how I'd like it to," he said.
Pettit teaches year-round. While summer garage band sessions are more time-intensive, he also offers fall sessions that are less so. He hasn't given up his performance career either. He plays about 120 shows a year with the Tim Sigler Band, a country band.
For more information, call Pettit at 612-876-2305 or go to www.dansgarageband.com. Registration forms and program details are available on the website.