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

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.

Rock Lab Report: San Luis Obispo

Written by Lauren Vukicevich and Noah Robertson

DSC00555 Music Motive recently started a new program called Rock Lab, where students come together every weekend and practice as a band. Drum teacher Noah Robertson facilitates the group, giving them an opportunity to discuss ideas, plans, and musical choices. Noah updated the Music Motive staff on the happenings of the most recent Rock Lab at the San Luis Obispo studio:

“Last week we had a band meeting and decided we were going to get serious about getting ‘show ready’. I gave the group some advice on some things we could do to improve the band and start REALLY preparing for an upcoming performance. They are really motivated! These changes have been well received and we are slowly executing our decided goals, and the progress is showing!

DSC00566For instance, last week I gave the singer an objective… her job was to come back this week and be able to sing an entire song with NO LYRICS OR MUSIC STAND. She came back this week and nailed it! She was able to perform Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day, in its entirety, without using a lyric sheets or a music stand. Now we can begin focusing on things like stage presence and start to move away from ‘hiding’ behind the mic stand. She was proud to come back and show us she could do it. Good stuff! We got our guitar player standing up and switching channels now. Our drummer is no longer tapping the drums and cymbals, she is really PLAYING!

I noticed the band was playing primarily Pop and Country tunes before. Which is great! But I wanted to give them a challenge… I added ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ by Nirvana to our set list last week. My reasoning was that we really needed a rockin’ tune to contrast with the rest of the songs we are working on… I explained that it would be good to have a high energy song to open and/or close the show with, something to really WOW the audience, which really peaked their interest. This is ROCK LAB after all! None of them were really too familiar with Nirvana, and at first they seemed somewhat skeptical of the tune. Especially our singer… not a huge fan of rock, she says. That was exactly my plan though. Once I explained the method to my madness, they were more than willing to give it a try.

DSC00592I used myself as an example: I primarily play Hard Rock and Heavy Metal – however, playing Jazz, Funk, and other styles – it has allowed me to take bits from other genres and apply it to what I know best. I talked about broadening your musical horizons and how it can help you grow as a musician. Now I had their interest. I also talked about what it takes to be in a band with other people and how it often takes compromise. A lot of bands are made up of members who have vastly different tastes in music, etc.

Today, was our first time rehearsing our new song, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.
It couldn’t have gone better! We managed to get through about 75 percent of the tune today! And it sounded GOOD! They were having a blast with the song and are totally into it now. BIG morale boost! They said it was the fastest they have ever learned a song… Awesome!”


Music Motive presents: Catch Phrase LIVE at SLO Donut Company (793 Foothill Blvd) on Feb. 28th, 2016 at 6PM!

The Music Motive SLO Rock Lab Program is taking a huge leap forward with our first live performance EVER! The show will feature Music Motive students: Olivia Fernflores on drums, John Fairweather on guitar, and Athena Wilson will be singing.

The group has been hard at work preparing for their first live performance as a band, and they are finally ready to show “the fans” what they have been working on! Catch Phrase will be playing an amazing set of Rock and Pop songs from the past to the present.

For more information, or to sign up for Rock Lab, check out our website here.

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.

Zero to Concert in 10 Weeks

Written by: Lauren Vukicevich

Throughout my life, I have been blessed with many opportunities to go to concerts, and I have always been mesmerized by them. But until I put on my own concert, I never fully understood everything that went into making shows run the way they do. Cal Poly’s music program includes a sound design series, including a class which has come to be known as “RSVP” (that I took this Spring). In the spirit of Cal Poly’s “Learn by Doing” motto, the class designs, prepares, and executes every detail about the show in one 10-week quarter.


The first order of business is assigning roles to each person (yes, I mean roles, as in plural). Dividing up many, many roles among 8 people can be challenging, but we had a good group this year and everyone stepped up right away. The roles I had this year were: composer, recordist/mixer, poet, stage manager, and reception coordinator. In addition to these, there were tasks that we all contributed to, such as stage construction and hanging lights (LOTS of them).

This process also involves promoting the show with posters, through social media, by coordinating with Cal Poly’s journalism department (mainly KCPR radio and Mustang News). We also went out and physically sold tickets to fellow music students, our friends, teachers, and bosses (Music Motive director, and my awesome boss, Steve Hilstein was kind enough to come support us and see the show!).

Cal Poly's Performing Arts Center

Cal Poly’s Performing Arts Center

Meanwhile, we were composing songs, learning to play them, and rehearsing with our groups. The show was meant to feature a variety of different types of music, but we still had to make sure each movement was cohesive. Though the styles of composition vary between each student, as well as the styles of the songs themselves, we worked to maintain a common thread in each piece. We decided on a “theme” phrase for the show early on, and while writing each song, each student seemed to include this theme. When it came time to record some of these songs, we noticed that we all had that same idea. It was pretty amazing!

In the week prior to the performances, we had FULL days. We created a plan for the lighting and other visual effects (such as videos and fog machines) that would be included in the show. We rehearsed with the dancers and musicians, making sure we had all of the audio lined up correctly, and making any necessary changes. We added final touches to recorded songs, and everyone practiced their pieces on their own, as well as on the stage.

10363705_10152203881649531_4401665198148141468_nThis year’s show, RSVP XIX: Vox Balaena, was about the lives and songs of Baleen whales. There were four movements, each meant to be from a different perspective. The first was a view of whales from an early human perspective: the thought that whales are monsters from the sea (“Leviathan”). Next was from the perspective of whales themselves. The third movement was a depiction of the horrors of whaling, and the reality of this problem in our world today. Lastly, we finished with a movement of hope and possibility; the idea that all creatures are related, and that we can take care of each other.

Although this show was more work than the average class, it was definitely worth it. I learned so much from this experience and I can honestly say that I will never forget the people I worked so closely with. Music just has a way of fixing memories into our minds!

For more information, you can visit the Performing Arts Center website here.


How To Survive a Music Festival

Written by: Lauren Vukicevich


Photo taken at Joshua Tree Music Festival

In preparing for a music festival this summer, I was talking with several different people about their experiences at festivals, who all seemed to say similar things. I decided that it would be good to compile some of this advice, along with my own, and share it with all of you fellow music lovers! Here are the points which I think are most important and useful:

Be prepared! Bring clothes for hot days, cold nights, or surprise rain showers (unless the festival has no real showers – then, by all means, let it rain down). Check the weather and pack accordingly; make sure you have hats and sunscreen for the days, and cozy clothes for nights around the campfire. It’s important to stay hydrated in the heat, so a camelback can come in handy for drinking water. Bring a towel or old blanket to use during daytime shows; you probably don’t like standing for 10 hours in a row, and the “festival you” won’t either.

Photo taken at First City Music Festival

Photo taken at First City Music Festival

Save your ears! Say you’re watching your favorite band, and they just started playing your favorite song. You move towards the front but quickly realize that the bass from the giant speakers are actually causing you physical pain. You want to go closer still, if only to be in the immediate presence of something so awesome. Well, if you just whip out those earplugs that you so intelligently brought, then your dilemma will last no longer than 10 seconds! Bonus: some people stay up VERY late at these festivals, so if you aren’t one of them, you’ll be happy to have a pair of these noise blockers.

Late-nighters jamin' into the wee hours. (photo by Aubrie Hilstein Luiz)

Late-nighters jamin’ into the wee hours at Live Oak Music Festival. (photo by Aubrie Hilstein Luiz)

Get there early to snag a good camping spot with your family and friends and set up your temporary home. Instruments are definitely recommended! Mid-day or late-night jam sessions are a relaxing way to take a break from the energetic concerts and rambunctious crowds. Seeing your favorite, talented musicians perform will likely inspire you to want to play your own stuff!

Live Oak Music Festival - a Central Coast fav.

Live Oak Music Festival – a Central Coast fav.

Make friends! People who go to music festivals are often very friendly and open, and you automatically have at least two things in common (although probably many more): you both love music and are there

watch the same artists up on those stages. A concert is such a social activity; everyone is dancing to the same infectious rhythms, singing to the same songs. How could you not connect with those around you?

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.

Second Saturdays

Written by: Lauren Vukicevich


What’s the secret to developing talent and using it to master your instrument? Do you ever wish you could get some inside tips from successful musicians themselves? Travis Larson and Jennifer Young of the Travis Larson Band will be kicking off this year’s “Second Saturdays” on February 8th with a guitar clinic at Music Motive. The Second Saturdays Showcase is Music Motive’s teacher demonstration event, which is usually held from 12-1pm on the 2nd Saturday of every month. This event, however, has a special time of 1-2pm, and will be free for any musician wanting to attend.


To find out more about the Travis Larson Band, check out our previous blog interview with Music Motive instructor and TLB drummer Dale Moon.

For information regarding the Second Saturdays, click here or on the Travis Larson Guitar Clinic page.