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

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“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

Beat The Odds: Drum Circles For Kids

Written by: Lauren Vukicevich and Steve Hilstein

It’s no secret that music has extraordinary benefits for a person’s well-being. Whether someone listens to music for motivation, plays an instrument to release stress, or sings to communicate with another person, the music becomes a channel for healing and positive growth! When kids are exposed these benefits at an early age, they learn to use music as an effective tool in their daily lives.


Recent session at Music Motive

REMO‘s Beat The Odds program is a facilitated drum circle where children come together as part of a community. The intention is to teach life skills and provide an opportunity for expression, rather than teaching perfect technique. This program allows elementary students to develop social skills and concentration, discover connections, and manage feelings. It helps to build an open and integrated community of children by encouraging cooperation and reflection

BeatTheOdds-Type-1Beat The Odds is a new opportunity for kids to experience group drumming with peers and a trained facilitator at Music Motive. This is an evidence-based program that is supported by experts in fields such as Music Therapy and Psychology. UCLArts and Healing has researched the effects of this specific program and found that it has tremendous benefits for schools and youth communities. The drums are especially therapeutic for kids because they are inclusive – they allow for participation regardless of previous musical experience, as well as options for participation that are comfortable to each child.


This Summer, Music Motive has included Beat the Odds in their Summer Music Camp program, and in the Fall it will be offered to various elementary schools throughout San Luis Obispo County. Some of Music Motive’s teachers have trained in North Hollywood to learn about this program and become facilitators. The training brought together a group of people from all different backgrounds and with a common goal to help children through music. Music Motive is excited to bring Beat the Odds to our community and share it with local youth!

For more information, look at UCLArts and Healing’s website, or the Beat the Odds section on our website here.

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

Resolution of Music and Fitness

Lou Mars Working Out

Is Drumming Considered A Fitness Workout? Lou Mars, photo by Brian Peterson Photography

Here we are again, at the end of another year; pondering our goals for the New Year. One of those goals always involves getting healthier and more fit, i.e. exercising. Yet, professional health & fitness organizations report that the average new fitness club member will only last up to three months before they resign and return to their unhealthier ways.

This time around, consider trying something that might last by utilizing a more creative approach.

Many of us do not like to work out.

But, we all love the benefits.

Working Out On The Drum Kit

Working Out On The Drum Kit Photo by Stefanie Hilstein

With that said, most of us love to listen to, and if capable of; perform music. Imagine if you will combining the two? Did you know that Scientists and Doctors have recently conducted tests on drummers, and found that their levels of performance match professional athletes? It’s true. One of the first reports came out of the BBC, and many have followed since, documenting

Photo Courtesy of BBC News

Blondie Drummer Clem Burke Photo Courtesy of BBC News

drummers using high-tech diagnostic measurement equipment for the human body, and attached to a drummer while they performed. The findings were conclusive that the calories burned, dexterity increased, muscles developed and the brain areas activated were all at high performance levels while playing the drums. There really isn’t much more of a main-stream physically taxing instrument out there today, than a drum set.

How much more interesting is it to not only become fit, but to perform and learn music at the same time!?! Talk about exercising both sides of your brain as well! Brain implementation, along with the physical effort necessary to perform the drums make this instrument one of the best for those seeking a combination of fitness, music and mental exercising combined. This combination also leads to less boredom during the process, equating to not quitting in three months. If you are having fun getting fit, while learning a musical instrument at the same time, you will stick with it.

Worst case scenario is you’ll learn how to play the drums.

Best case is you’ll Love it.

I call that a win-win.

May your new year be the best one ever.
Be safe and keep the music alive.

Written by Music Motivator Lou Mars

How To Gift A Musician

Musicians can be both the easiest and most difficult individuals to gift during the holidays. However, what seems like a sure thing at first, can quickly become complex if you don’t know what you are doing. Sure, the easy way out is a gift card, but where’s the sentimental value in that? Whether it be a guitarist, drummer, brass player, keyboardist, vocalist etc., that you are shopping for; one thing is usually fairly safe: accessories!

gear-page-drumsEach instrument has an item associated with it, that is constantly in a state of replacement. For drummers it is sticks and drum heads, guitarist: pics and strings, brass: reeds and mouth pieces.

Wait, not so fast. Each artist will have a brand preference, therefore, buying just any product type will not suffice. Like knowing someones shoe size, take a moment to find out the brand and type that your favorite musician is using ‘before’ you buy. To you it’s another name, but to many brand-loyal artists, it can be part of their signature sound and style.

Other popular accessories that are always in need can be: music stands, blank sheet music, mic stands, headsets, etc.


Still confused as to what and how to buy?

Did you search online only to be met with a larger array of product options?

IMG_7291Stop in or call the Music Motive’s San Luis Obispo location. First, it’s fully equipped with your musicians’ favorite gear and accessories. Second, there will be a knowledgeable representative at the front desk to answer your questions. Third: The building is fully stocked with professional musicians, of all types. Any and all of which welcome such questions and can provide valuable tips plus advice that you just cannot find elsewhere.

Happy Holidays and See You Soon at Music Motive!

Written by Motivator Lou Mars

New Times Music Awards 2014

Written by: Lauren Vukicevich

10653675_846845911993454_2428768108995320247_nThursday, August 28th, marked the sixth year of the New Times Music Awards, which were held at SLO Brew. Runners up were announced, and the winners of each category were able to perform a few songs. There were awards given to each of the six genre categories: Songwriter, Hip-hop, Alternative/Rock, Country/Folk/Americana, Blues/R&B, and Open.

The Songwriting category was won by Dulcie Taylor, and the songs she performed made it clear why she deserved the award. Famous Deuce & Roach Clip were the winners of the Hip-hop category; their performance was a fun and different addition to the lineup of local artists!

The Alternative/Rock award went to Odonovan, whose performance was rockin’ with a country feel. A few of the band members’ adorable daughters were dancing and singing to every song – their biggest (and smallest) fans! The Open category was won by Shadowlands, who put on an amazing performance including talented singers and a wonderful cellist, among other instrumentalists. 

The Country/Folk/Americana award was given to Steven Stiles, which is band with a fun, upbeat groove featuring guitars and a banjo! The best Blues/R&B song went to Proxima Parada, who actually won 1st and 2nd place for 2 different songs. Their set was exciting and definitely got the audience dancing.

At the end of the night, a panel of judges deliberated over who gave the best live performance, and the award was given to Proxima Parada. There was also a Reader’s Choice award, where people voted online, and Famous Deuce & Roach Clip were chosen. Album of the Year went to the Turkey Buzzards

This event makes us excited about the budding musicians that we at Music Motive have the privilege of teaching. As we see students Get Started, and Go Further, we can’t help but think that maybe someday they’ll be up there on that SLO Brew stage.


To find out more, visit the New Times website here.

“Trash Talk” CD is Officially Released

Written by: Lauren Vukicevich

The Bucket Busters have been hard at work in the studio since the beginning of this year, and the time has finally come! They just released their new CD, “Trash Talk,” which features some special songs from their first album, as well as new ones. Bucket Busters leader Micah Grogg and Music Motive director Steve Hilstein are very proud of the  Busters’ accomplishments!

Album Cover

Thanks to all who donated to the Kickstarter fundraiser! The goal of $1,200 was not only met, but exceeded by hundreds of dollars. This means that all the extra money will go into the Music Motive scholarship fund, which supports kids who can’t afford music lessons. These scholarships can also be used for the music enrichment classes at SLO County elementary schools, which are presented by Music Motive.

BB -Fan-T-art

Fan t-shirt art.

The money raised from the campaign helped the Busters to make copies of the CD, which are now available to buy. The CDs, along with fan t-shirts and Bucket Busters private label sticks, will be sold at their shows, on their website, Music Motive in SLO. The entire purchase price of these items go directly into the scholarship fund. CDs are also available at Boo Boo Records in San Luis Obispo.

Performing at Farmers' Market, Downtown SLO

Performing at Farmers’ Market, Downtown San Luis Obispo (July 10, 2014)

To any future Bucket Busters: you can be a part of this! With enough practice, any drummer under 18 years old can audition to become a Bucket Buster.
Call 805-543-0377 ext 9 for information.

To find out more about the Busters, check out their Facebook page and website.

Cayucos Pier Benefit Concert

Written by: Lauren Vukicevich

Photo by Cayucos Surf Co.

Photo by Cayucos Surf Co.

Although I haven’t always been a San Luis Obispo resident, I have been coming to SLO county with my family since I was very young. Some of my earliest memories are of visiting a family friend’s pizza restaurant near the Cayucos pier. I spent many summer days playing on the beach swings, making sandcastles, and watching surfers from the pier. The pier is cherished by locals and travelers alike – it is a special place!

Last November, Cayucos hosted a benefit concert to raise money for preservation of the historic pier, which was condemned by the City of San Luis Obispo. Renovations were expected to cost around $2 million, and while a portion of that money was raised last year, Cayucos needs some more help to save the pier! It is truly a local landmark and could use all the love it can get.


Surfer/Musician Tom Curren

Who doesn’t like listening to live music on the beach? This Saturday, June 21st, there will be another fundraiser for the Cayucos pier featuring awesome music and festivities for the whole family. “Paddle the Pier” will begin at 8:00 AM, where everyone is invited to join in and paddle around the pier on any type of kayak, surfboard, or stand-up paddle board.

The concert will begin at 11:00 AM, with performances by artists like Tom Curren, local band Próxima Parada, and our very own Bucket Busters at 12:30! There will be plenty of delicious food and drinks, so all you need is a picnic blanket to relax and enjoy some free tunes. Not only does this event support a worthy cause, but it will be fun, festive, and full of music. We hope to see you out there!

1975026_663431410372274_512395940402012182_n Find out more at the Concerts for Cayucos website. Details can be found on the facebook event page here.

Bucket Busters Kickstarter

Written by: Lauren Vukicevich

10356333_824365010926462_2144812741388661259_nThe Bucket Busters are a group of Music Motive drum students that make their music on buckets, water bottles, and trash cans. By now, you’ve probably heard them drumming at the Farmer’s Market in downtown San Luis Obispo on a Thursday night. Still, you may not know that their work earns money for music scholarships. This opens up an incredible amount of opportunities for aspiring music students who can’t afford lessons. These scholarships go toward either private lessons, or enrichment classes at elementary schools around SLO county.

The Bucket Busters have been recording their second album, but they need support in order to complete it. They’re doing a fundraiser on Kickstarter to raise money for duplication of CDs, which they will sell in order to help kids who need scholarships. They need a minimum of $1,200 to complete the project, and every little bit helps! What will happen if they raise more than their goal? Any extra money that people donate will go directly into the scholarship fund.


When pledges (donations) are made, they send out special gifts! Depending on how much is pledged, donors will receive awesome prizes like a pre-sale CD of the new album, a Bucket Busters t-shirt, or a performance by the Bucket Busters themselves!

Any new info on the project (the new album title was just decided, for example) will be posted to the “Updates” section of the Kickstarter page. If you’d like to hear a sample of the music on the new album, just check out the promo video! The official CD will be formally released in June, after the fundraiser is complete.

To visit the Kickstarter page, click here.

You can find out more about the Bucket Busters on the Music Motive website or the Bucket Busters Facebook.

The Bucket Busters will be performing at Paso Robles ARTSFEST, Saturday, May 24th @ 3:00.


Music Freedom Day

Written by: Lauren Vukicevich

MFDlogo12_26cm-300dpiImagine your favorite artist not being allowed to write or perform music anymore because their political views were controversial. It’s sometimes too easy to take our civil liberties for granted, especially when it comes to every day occurrences like playing or listening to music. Music is such a natural human tendency that it can be hard to imagine a place where it’s not allowed.

On March 3rd, people all over the world celebrated “The Right to Freedom of Artistic and Creative Expression” on what is known as Music Freedom Day. This annual event is gaining attention each year, leading to more and more participating countries! Some “speak” out with the music they play on radio stations, some dedicate concerts to the efforts.

protestAt times in the US, some musicians have been harassed by our government and forced into censorship. This was more common in the 60’s when rock & roll was new and thought of by most as rebellious and taboo. Protest songs by artists like Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, and John Lennon have been a strong influence on popular culture, which often involves government opposition. One recent example: public radio stations refused to play the Dixie Chicks after their lead singer criticized President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq.

While this may seem like a breach of freedom to us, and it is, there are other countries where local musicians have been persecuted and even killed because of their music. Long-standing music traditions have been torn apart by government regimes, and people have been forced to suppress their inherent musicality. Music Freedom Day was created to raise awareness about the censorship still happening in today’s world. Really, it is an opportunity for countries to come together and express their freedom of creativity through song!

Music Freedom Day 2014 in Islamabad.

Music Freedom Day 2014 in Islamabad.

Music may be incorporated differently into every culture, but it is a part of all human life. We should remember to appreciate our right to express ourselves through music because it is such an important part of our lives! All people deserve the freedom to write, play, and listen to any music that they choose, and we should support others who are trying to gain that freedom.

To visit the Music Freedom Day website, click here.