Anniversaries, Seasons, & Callings

Written by Music Motive Director, Steve Hilstein

Today, August 1, 2018,  we celebrate the 7 year anniversary of Music Motive!

SLO.1On this day, 7 years ago, we opened our San Luis Obispo location at 3440 S. Higuera Street, Suite 130, and renamed our studios in Paso/Templeton and Nipomo. It marks the day we changed our identity from, primarily, a drumming program into who we are now – private music lessons form modern contemporary instruments, and presented our first music lessons as Music Motive! Since then, in 2014, we added a 4th location in Arroyo Grande.


The “drum lesson shack” where Steve first gave lessons.

However, for those of you who may not know our history, this business actually began in a garage on Broad Street in San Luis Obispo, where I gave a young man his first drum lesson in 1981. Little did he know, It was my 1st drum lesson to give!

I had just moved to SLO, the year before, to join a band. The audition took place in Southern California, where I am from. I got the gig on the spot, and two weeks later, moved to SLO-Town. For eight years, I played in bands, taught drums, and furthered my musical education, including a year at P.I.T in 1985 at Musicians Institute in Hollywood. On February 2, 1988,


The first Drum Circuit location at 285 Buchon, SLO.

I opened the Drum Circuit drum shop. After 20 years of music retail and building a drum lesson program, I sold the the retail part of that business, but kept the drum school and the teachers, including Dale Moon and Wyatt Lund, who are still with us. It was then, in 2007 we became “Drum School 101” and eventually, by 2011, we grew to what we are today as “Music Motive”.

I’ve often been asked why I sold The Drum Circuit. There comes a time when you feel drawn to make a change and move on. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy having a drum shop.


Interior of The Drum Circuit – 2002

It had many joyful rewards and I have no regrets, but I eventually became frustrated
with not having enough time to create more opportunities for music education. After that transition I was able to create and develop the Bucket Busters bucket drumming group, a Music Scholarship program for kids, and Music Enrichment drumming, guitar, piano, vocals, ukulele, and drama

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 9.58.41 AM.png

“Beat The Odds” program.

classes in about 40 SLO County schools. More recently, I have been able to present a drum circle/self esteem program to local schools (created at UCLArts) called “Beat The Odds”.


With the help of our brilliant Music Motive staff, we have created a music supply and accessories retail store to serve local musicians as well as our private lesson students. We’ve also developed programs like Student Spotlight, Play With The Pros, Band Jam, Student Showcase, Kids Drum Circles, Rock Lab, Rock Band Camp, promo pic-2Music Romp, Tiny Tunes, and others. Some of these have come and gone, but I look forward to see what new and creative ideas are still ahead!

As I previously mentioned, “there comes a time when you feel drawn to make a change”. Once again, I feel a calling to move on to some other things, musically related, of course. I’m very excited to announce that I am developing a Christian music ministry called, “Cali-Christian Music Events”. With the help of many, I intend to produce and promote bands, singer-song writers, local Christian music concert events and other performance opportunities.

I’m not actually leaving Music Motive entirely, however, my workload will go from five-six days a week to about one. My wife, Stefanie, of almost 20 years will be managing our business, as I will take on the roll of consultant and a few other tasks. My new title is “Director-at-large”. You may see me around still, and for the most part things at Music Motive will continue as normal.

Steve Hilstein

Kevin Danny Carr – College Graduate

Written by guest blogger, Music Motive Director, Steve Hilstein

Writer’s Notes: Please indulge me. I normally don’t consider myself a writer, and this blog doesn’t really fit our regular criteria. But, since I’m the director of Music Motive, I suppose I can do what ever I want. So, there! It may be obvious by now, but I’m writing this without an editor or proof reader. YIKES!

This blog is about Kevin Carr. He worked at Music Motive as an intern for about a year and actually started this blog for us a couple years ago.. As well as being a writer, he’s also a musician/teacher (guitar/drums), listens to the radio a lot, and is a uniquely gifted writer. He’s also my nephew, but trust me, that’s not why I hired him.

Kevin Grad 2015As you can see, he is graduating this week with two degrees from the University of Rochester in New York. What makes him extraordinary, is how he persevered to make it happen.

Although Kevin may not fully realize it, his childhood was challenging. When he was very young, his family fell apart due to many struggles that he and his older brother and sister had no control of. He was ultimately raised by his loving Grandparents, Jerry & Connie, and supported by other family members. Kevin had every reason (or excuse) to fail in life, but it is his character and wit that has allowed him to succeed.


Kevin “Macho Man” Carr – 4 years old

Born and raised near Pismo Beach, California, his education process, included a diploma from Arroyo Grande High School. He also achieved a community college degree in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and has received numerous honors, achievement awards, and hard earned scholarships. All the while, he was a full time manager of a gas station, has worked in coffee shops, at grocery stores, as a music teacher, entrepreneurial assistant, inner city youth counselor, freelance writer, and one of his most challenging jobs, working for me as an intern at Music Motive. 🙂


Receiving “Outstanding Adult Student” award. April 2015


Just a bit chilly on February 15, 2015. High 1, Low -4


He may not have been able to achieve all of this without his faith in God, and the support he has received from his loving wife, Megan, who put her own career on hold to be at his side while living in an unfamiliar city for two years during the coldest winters on record in Rochester. Megan ROCKS!

The moral of this blog, is this: Whether you are a musician who is trying to achieve excellence, a student wanting to make it through school, or longing to have an exciting career to fulfill your passion and purpose (and EVERYBODY has a purpose), you CAN do it! How? Three ways. Never give up, never give up… NEVER GIVE UP!


Kevin and Megan celebrating success!


Kevin, “congratulations” really isn’t enough. You are brilliant, inspiring to me, and we are proud of you beyond words.

Now, SOAR!
Love, Uncle Steve

Music Motive’s Local Musician Survey

Written by: Darren Johnson

Recently, Music Motive created a survey for the musicians of San Luis Obispo County. It was great to see how passionate members of our community are about music, and there were a few thought provoking results that surfaced: graph

My favorite part of this survey appeared out of the results from the question “Why do you choose to be a musician?”

–Some responses were very heartfelt, such as:

“I find joy in music. It’s therapeutic, stimulating and there’s really nothing that is more liberating than playing music with other people that you genuinely connect with.”

“Because it brings me more joy than anything else in this world.”

“Music makes me happy.”

–Others were a little more on the funny side:


“Better than a regular job.”

No matter what the answers were, I couldn’t help but get an overwhelming sense of a musical community. We all became musicians by choice because of our love for music, all joining together in the pursuit of one common passion. In my opinion, that’s a pretty great thing.


Something that stood out from the results was that over 80% of the 30 respondents said they have taken private music lessons, and around 63% said that they hoped to become or already were professional musicians. graph3 This shows that private music lessons have had a huge benefit for our musical community, and would be a great idea for those seeking a musical outlet.

Not only is being able to play a musical instrument a useful skill set, it also creates positivity in other aspects of our lives. A good knowledge of music helps to create well-rounded and compassionate individuals, making it an important part of our community’s education.

One Music Lesson

Written by: Music Motive director, Steve Hilstein

A young man who is a student at Cal Poly SLO won a free private music lesson at Music Motive. I wasn’t sure if he was planing on continuing after cashing in his voucher, but he asked me a fair question. He wrote, “I wanted to reach out to you and ask for your recommendation. I am fairly inexperienced when it comes to music – I have an old guitar and my roommate has a keyboard and cajon – what instrument (from your offerings) would you suggest I start with? I am looking to get a better grasp on the fundamentals of music and think Music Motive will be a great place to start.” – Tim

Taking one music lesson would be the equivalent of reading only one chapter in a great book. How much could you really expect to know or understand? However, it got me thinking – if you did take only one private music lesson, what could I possibly recommend? I had to dig down deep. This was my reply…

“Being primarily a drummer myself, but also a guitar and bass player (to a limited end), I may be a little biased by recommending drums/percussion. One of our drum instructors,

Tracy A. Morgan performing last year with the Julian Temple Band.

Tracy A. Morgan performing last year with the Julian Temple Band.

Tracy A. Morgan is skilled in both drums and percussion. He teaches drum set, cajon, d’jembe (and other hand percussion), and also leads our Percussion Break group every Wednesday at noon, and Percussion Happy Hour on Mondays at 5:30pm. Based off what you described, that could be my recommendation to you. “Time” and “Rhythm” is the foundation of all modern music. I believe all musicians should study this.

Devin Welsh last month with Natural Incense.

Devin Welsh last month with “Natural Incense”.

I will also add that musicianship is a very individual thing, like choosing which sport or hobby you are drawn to. Keyboard (specifically piano) is a percussion instrument which also relies on melody and harmony. Devin Welsh is one of our instructors who has experience on the keyboard and also plays guitar, teaches recording, sings (he teaches vocals too), and plays in the local/touring band, Natural Incense. He’s a very “well rounded” musician and could be an good influence on a budding career.


Justin Pecot at the SLO Mission concerts with “Truth About Seafood”.

Steve Ambarian last year with "Stereo Steve".

Steve Ambarian last year with “Stereo Steve”.

Since you already own a guitar, and it has all the musical elements that I’ve already described, I could also recommend either of our primary guitar instructors, Justin Pecot (with Truth About Seafood) or Steve Ambarian (of Stereo Steve), both brilliantly talented musicians who possess a ton of experience and skill.

So, I will answer your question with a question. Now dig down deep… what instrument is your heart drawing you to?”

The SLO Acoustic Scene

Written by: Darren Johnson

Whether it’s a well-known metal band creating mosh-pits at SLO Brew, local Jazz Artists performing intricate melodies downtown, or anything in-between… San Luis Obispo has a vast range of venues and musical genres for us to attend. Acoustic venues, in particular, have recently been gaining popularity within our music scene.

Nataly Lola performs at the Shell Cafe and other venues throughout the Central Coast

Nataly Lola performs at the Shell Cafe and other venues throughout the Central Coast

There are numerous groups that perform at local venues; including Nataly Lola, Cheyenne McDonald, Stereo Steve, and Kristen Black. Kreuzberg, Eatz by Design, Eureka Burger, and The Steynberg Gallery are just a few places where you might stumble upon live ‘acoustic’ music while walking around downtown. There is an abundance of restaurants outside of SLO that have live music as well, such as Steamers and the Shell Cafe in Pismo Beach, OtterRock, Libertine in Morro Bay, and the Wise Owl in Cambria.

Kristen Black at The Steynberg Gallery

Kristen Black performing at Steynberg Gallery

Part of the reason for the growth of acoustic venues in the area is the increase in smaller restaurants, wine bars, and coffee shops. Venues like this create a higher demand for musicians that play at a lower volume. When a drum set and amplified guitars would be too loud, a Cajon and acoustic guitar work perfectly for that “easy listening” vibe that many smaller businesses desire. The lower volume of an acoustic band in a smaller space creates more flexibility and versatility for the business owners, musicians, and audience.

Stereo Steve at Eureka Burger!

Stereo Steve, acoustic/electric duo, performing at Eureka Burger!

Local artists are gaining more opportunities to gig due to the increase of acoustic venue popularity. It’s definitely nice to walk into a restaurant and hear some LIVE music being played. If you enjoy our live local music, remember to show some local support!

Interns Come and Interns Go

As the co-owner, director, and founder of Music Motive, most people assume that I make all the decisions, create all the programs, and know everything it takes to make this boat float. It’s true that, like most small business owners, I am multi-talented. I can unclog drains, get the internet to work, do some bookkeeping (ugh), design a flyer, hang a shelf on the wall, repair a snare drum, manage social media, teach a music lesson, or even write a blog [this is actually my first blog] all in a day’s work. The truth be known, I do not do it alone. [I know you must be shocked.]  My co-owner wife, Stefanie, and I have a brilliant staff that contributes greatly to our program.

This blog is about an intern who recently came and went, Kevin Daniel Carr. Before coming to Music Motive, Kevin, who is originally from the Central Coast, spent his last few years seeking fame and fortune in Coeur d’ Alane, Idaho where he met his lovely wife, Megan. He is an excellent blogger, and besides starting our Music Motive blog a few months ago, he has his own called “The Number Kevin”. It was recently featured on WordPress’ “Freshly Pressed” which, as Kevin put it, “is a blogger’s dream”!

Like other Music Motive staff, Kevin came up with many fresh ideas that we have started implementing and will continue to develop in the near future. One of the most important, and my personal favorite, is our upcoming “Motivation Program” designed to encourage private lesson students to practice by rewarding their efforts. Kevin also helped with our newest program, “Band Jam,” that gives students the opportunity to play with a band. For some, it will be their very first time interacting with other musicians!

hats-4Like me, Kevin wore many hats -working the front counter, ‘yucking’ it up with the students, running the vacuum, posting and promoting on our Music Motive Facebook Page, ‘subbing’ for guitar teachers,


and even taught Music Enrichment Guitar Classes that we bring to local schools, but like most interns do, Kevin has moved on. He and his wife will be heading to the University of Rochester in New York, where he will continue his education this Fall, majoring in Entrepreneurship and Creative Writing on a full scholarship! Yeah, he’s no dummy.

All of us at Music Motive just want to say “thank you, Kevin”, for what you brought and for what you have left. We know that your input will have a lasting effect. Lives will be touched as we get music students started and take them further.



We will miss Kevin greatly. We wish him and Megan the very best, and hope to see his happy little face again.

Now go, Grasshopper.
Blessings to you.
[Sniff, sniff.]