Music Motive Locations

Written by: Darren Johnson

As an instructor at Music Motive, I frequently get asked about our studios and their locations. For anyone who has been wanting more information on this topic, look no further! This article will serve as your all-inclusive guide.


Music Motive has studios in four locations; San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande, Templeton/Paso, and Nipomo.

SLO.5San Luis Obispo: This is the heart of the Music Motive studios, located at 3440 S. Higuera Street #130. Not only are there a multitude of studio rooms for private lessons here, but it’s a store with music accessories too! As if that didn’t make it cool enough already, the showroom there is the placeholder of many Music Motive events, such as the Band Jam, Student Spotlight, and the studio where the Bucket Busters rehearse.

unnamed (2)Arroyo Grande: The newest location of the Music Motive studios can be found on 1115 E. Grand Ave (next to Donna’s Interiors). It’s been converted from an old house into a private lesson studio with three studio rooms. The whole place has a really nice feel. It also has a sweet avocado tree in the back yard! What more could you ask for?

PASO.2Templeton/Paso: This studio is located at 130 Easy Street #5. This studio has a huge main room, big enough that you could do cartwheels all over the place (I won’t judge). There are also two studio rooms for private lessons; I particularly like the sound of the drum kits at this studio.

Nipomo: The quaint Nipomo studio is at 338A W. Tefft Street. This is the smallest of the four studios and has nice vibes. It has two studio rooms for private lessons. I’ve also recently heard from our director Steve Hilstein that Nipomo has the most consistent weather in the United States. Go Nipomo!

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So there you have it, all of the key information needed to know which studio caters to your specific where-a-bouts. Feel free to sign up for lessons at any location on our website, call us at 805-543-0377, or drop by our San Luis Obispo studio to register, pick up a set of strings, or play with our puppy!



Preparation for a Collegiate Music Career

Written by: Lauren Vukicevich

Are you considering a university education in music? Studying music is an incredible experience, which has many psychological, social, and physical benefits!

What do music programs offer?: A collegiate music program can be an opportunity to develop a wide range of skills, to learn from professional musicians, and to collaborate with like-minded peers. Many universities offer concentrations or majors in particular subjects. Some examples are music theory, performance, composition, music education, and music therapy. Universities with music programs often have several options of ensembles to play in, and performance halls where you can showcase your progress.


The view from the stage of Cal Poly’s Performing Arts Center in San Luis Obispo

Is a career in music right for me?: To be a professional musician, you must be dedicated and passionate about your practice. Music programs require a lot of time and focus on a primary instrument, as well as confidence in your abilities and progress. If you love to play music, and you’re excited about learning and improving, then you may be ready to look into a collegiate music career!

auditions2What do I need to know?: Music programs require an audition that goes along with your application to the school. Most colleges look for a few main proficiencies, as well as the student’s potential. Generally, you will prepare 2 contrasting – meaning different in style, era, tempo, etc. – pieces of music on your primary instrument. These are usually played from memory. The audition will also include playing scales, sight-reading sheet music, and possibly demonstrating musicianship through ear training.

Music_Composition-600x401How do I get ready?: Preparing early can build confidence, open up possibilities, and enhance motivation. Discovering which area of music interests you the most, comes from exploring your strengths and your passions. A private instructor can help you experiment with these different aspects of music, in order to determine which is the best fit for you. Before you begin a college-level music program, it is important to develop a repertoire of songs and techniques. Proficiency and experience will allow you to have more choices of schools and programs, and will help you transition into being a college-level music student!

You can find a private lesson instructor at!

As Told By Steve Hilstein

Written by: Lauren Vukicevich 

After writing for Music Motive for over a year, it was about time that I interviewed the man behind it all: Steve Hilstein. I have learned so much from him, not only about the importance of music education, but also about serving a community. Through knowing Steve, I have seen the kind of passion that drives a vision, but I have also seen a genuine, patient, and fun-loving guy. I am constantly inspired by his service and dedication to music education all over the county, and I think you will be too!


Jamin’ with Chris Marshall – the Oasis Band.

Did you decide to teach music?

I started playing drums when I was ten years old, taking lessons, but it wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties, when a friend suggested that I try teaching. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I  got my first drum student, and realized how much I enjoyed it. That seems like it was a long time ago. Ha!

What made you want to go into business?

After a few years of teaching and educating myself even further, I began building my drum teaching business. I had quite a few students and I wanted to start carrying drum books to make it convenient for them, so I got my resell license and started supplying things like sticks and drum heads. Before I knew it I was ordering drum sets for them, and I thought maybe it was time to open a drum shop. So, I did and called it “The Drum Circuit”. I had that business for twenty years, but I realized that the retail part of it didn’t allow me the time to fulfill my passion for music education. So, I kept the drum school, but I sold the retail part of it, and branched out to teach other instruments such as guitar, piano, violin, and other instruments. That’s when we eventually transitioned what is now Music Motive!


Grand Opening of Music Motive in SLO – September 2011

Why do you believe that music education is so important?

I believe that music education is vitally important. I believe it’s the fabric of our lives. Music is all around us and touches us at a very deep level. It’s been my passion, not only to perform, but also to empower other musicians to teach and pass that on.

How did you come to start the Music Enrichment classes in SLO County elementary schools?


The Bucket Busters performing at Farmer’s Market

It all really started with the Bucket Busters – people would come out to watch us perform and they would ask how their kids could get involved, without realizing that the kids in Bucket Busters are accomplished drummers. So I thought, why not start a drumming class and do it on buckets? We came up with the name Bucketeers, and we were soon invited to teach at schools. We started a program that is capable of bringing about 90 – 8 week classes a year to about 30 elementary schools in San Luis Obispo County. After we initiated the Bucketeers program, we also added Guitar, Sing, Piano, and new this year, Drama/Musical Theater classes as after school programs.

How did the scholarship program begin?

Many years ago a young man came in with his mom to ask how much music lessons were, and I could tell by the look on their faces that they couldn’t afford it. And it broke my heart and I just thought, I want to do something so that every kid who wants to study music, in private lessons, or in the classes in schools, has opportunity. We started comping kids some of the lessons, then we began a scholarship program, which people would fund. Then, the Bucket Busters came along, and all the money that is donated to the Bucket Busters at our performances and through the sell of their CD, “Trash Talk”, goes into the scholarship program. 100% of these donations go toward private lessons for kids, as well as the music enrichment classes in elementary schools. That is huge to me, because now we have money for anyone who qualifies, any family that can’t afford lessons for their child. We can make that happen.

Guitar! – Music Enrichment Program in schools.

How has your vision of Music Motive changed since you first opened?

I believe we’re on track. We’ve tried some things that didn’t work and others that surpassed my expectations, but there’s still a lot to do and it will always be a work in progress. We’re currently developing a recording program, and a ‘band workshop’ to bring our younger students together to form bands. I would like to have more classes and workshops, and mini-concerts. The ideas just keep on coming, which is really my job – program development and promotion, amongst other things.

What is special about the new Arroyo Grande studio?

We’re really excited about it! It’s a great location, right on Grand Ave. (1115 East Grand) between Elm and Halcyon. When I first walked in the building, which is an old house converted to offices, I could just see that it was meant to be for us. It’s got plenty of parking, large rooms that have been made into 3 studios, a waiting area, an office, and room to grow. We’ve been wanting to be in Arroyo Grande for a long time, now we’re finally there and really excited about it.

Are you still playing music yourself?


“Stereo Steve”, with Music Motive guitar instructor, Steve Ambarian.

Yeah, I still play – I still do two or three gigs a week with about five different bands: the Oasis Band from SLO, a duo called Stereo Steve, with Steve Ambarian, who is a guitar teacher here at Music Motive, and a group from Southern California called The Scarlet Furies, and recently, I’ve been playing with Monie Mills and the Lucky Horseshoe Band. I’ve also been playing quite a bit in the last couple of years, with the Nataly Lola Band, Randy Rigby, and I host the drums about once a month for the Blues Masters Jam at Shell Cafe in Pismo Beach. I also do some freelancing with people who need a drummer, whoever will have me! One of the things that I really enjoy doing is playing music I don’t know, with people I just met, in a place I’ve never been before. I find that to be a challenge, and really enjoy it – and I seem to be able to pull it off most of the time!

To find out about music lessons, enrichment classes, and the new Arroyo Grande location, check out our website!

Run For Music

Written by: Lauren Vukicevich

Does the idea of doing something fun that also benefits the San Luis Obispo music community spark your interest? The 2nd annual “Run For Music” fundraiser will be held on Sunday, January 26th on Cal Poly’s campus. Participants can choose to run or walk either a 5k course, or the longer 10k route. The event is put on by the Iota Pi chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi, the national honorary band fraternity dedicated to supporting Cal Poly bands and music in the San Luis Obispo community.


The money raised by this event will support: music programs at schools in San Luis Obispo, the Cal Poly band program, and the Iota Pi chapter. Kappa Kappa Psi’s community service includes volunteering at elementary schools, creating high school music leadership workshops, and hosting a Musical Petting Zoo at the Farmer’s Market. This is one of many musical petting zoos where kids can explore and try out a variety of used instruments right there on the spot! All of these services are a great way to expose kids to music, as well as develop the bands at Cal Poly.


The Cal Poly marching band.

There are many ways to get involved with Run For Music! You can run, be a sponsor, or even volunteer to help with the event. Interested in participating? Register here for a discount, or at 9 am in the Cal Poly University Union on the 26th, where there will be a live music ensemble; the race begins at 10 am. This is an awesome cause supporting something that we at Music Motive strongly believe in!

Check out the Iota Pi Facebook  or website to find out more.

Music Enrichment Classes

Written by: Lauren Vukicevich

We at Music Motive believe that music enrichment is a critical part of a child’s well-rounded education. Due to budget cuts, music has been eliminated from many schools locally as well as across America. Music Motive offers after school music enrichment classes at several elementary schools throughout San Luis Obispo County. Last week, I sat down with Music Motive director, Steve Hilstein and Music Enrichment Class Manager, Micah Grogg to discuss the classes which will be offered this Fall. Micah is also a Bucketeers teacher and Bucket Busters leader, so he and Steve were able to give me quite a few details about the program.


Bucketeers at Pacheco Elementary School, San Luis Obispo.

What exactly do the music enrichment classes entail?

Micah: We have 3 different classes – Guitar, Drums, and Sing (a choral class). Each class session is eight weeks, with Fall classes beginning mid-September. The students learn how to hold there instruments, how to read a music, and learn at least one song which they perform at the end of each class. Piano and Ukulele classes are available to schools by request.

Why do you think it is important to have music instruction in the schools?

Steve: Because of the lack of music being taught in our school system, I am passionate about bringing music to kids and giving them the same opportunities that earlier generations have had. It has been proven that learning to play an instrument helps make you smarter and increases success in other academic areas. Learning to play music involves using more areas of the brain than almost any other activity, and there are many benefits to that kind of stimulation.


Guitar Class at Monarch Grove Elementary School in Los Osos.

How long has Music Motive been offering the enrichment programs?

Steve: We started with the Bucketeers drumming class about 5 years ago, which was inspired by the Bucket Busters. People would come up to us at shows and ask, “How can my kid be a part of this?” So we started an entry-level drumming class on buckets. Two years later we started doing Guitar classes, as well as Sing, which is choral group (previously called Glee Club).

Do students in the Bucketeers class ever become Bucket Busters?

Micah: Yes, we’ve had two kids who started as Bucketeers and then went into private lessons and are now Bucket Busters. If students want to continue, we encourage them to take private lessons because that’s where they can really excel.

How old do the kids need to be to participate?

Steve: 1st grade and up. Guitar, Ukulele, and even piano start at 3rd grade and up.

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Teacher, Tracy Morgan with some very happy Bucketeers.

Micah: In the Sing classes, even small kids can fully participate because they are mostly learning songs and vocal techniques. They put together vocal arrangements, accompanied by the teacher or sing along to tracks.

How are kids selected for these classes?

Steve: Anyone can sign up. Like anything else, some kids take to it better or faster than others. These classes are designed to expose kids to music and give them the opportunity to try it and see if they take to it.  Sometimes a kid will start with bucket drumming and realize that guitar is what they really want to learn. These classes are meant to introduce kids to music at an early age when they are more equipped to learn. It’s similar to when a child learns a foreign language, which music essentially is; it is much easier when they are younger.

How do you select your teachers for the classes?

Prodogy Award

The Prodigy Award – earned by a Monarch Grove Student.

Steve: Most of them are direct referrals or already teach in our private lessons program. They are certified and have background checks. I personally really enjoy teaching one or two classes every year. I just love it! Every time I leave, I’m energized. I love teaching kids music. It’s fun and very gratifying.

How do you come up with the curriculum for the classes?

Steve: We write our own curriculum based on our teachers’ previous music education. A few of us collaborate and decide on some very basic material. It is simply a way to expose kids to music, and often times after taking a class, the student will continue on to take private lessons.

The Bucketeers class, in particular, is designed so that the students can take it repeatedly. Some have even take it four or five times! We have different levels within the curriculum, whereas the first time through they may only get up to the first or second level, but by the fourth or fifth time, they may get up to a much higher level. Often, kids who have already taken the class are given the opportunity assist the teacher to help teach. When one student teaches another, it really benefits both of them.

You can find out more or sign up for classes here:

Interview: Lisa Nauful, San Luis Obispo Symphony

2013 is a big year for the San Luis Obispo Symphony. With three monumental anniversaries, two new soloist, and a brand new mascot on the way, the Symphony is working hard to keep classical music fresh and alive in SLO County.

Recently, I sat down with Lisa Nauful, Assistant Executive Director & Communications Director at the San Luis Obispo Symphony. We talked about the past and future of the Symphony, their immense role in music education across the county, and she introduced me to the Symphony’s new Mascot, “POPStar.”

Thanks for joining me, Lisa. It’s great to meet you. What brought you to work here to the Symphony? Do you play in the Orchestra?

Lisa head shot

Lisa Nauful, Assistant Executive Director & Communications,
San Luis Obispo Symphony

It’s great to meet you, too!  I do play in the orchestra; I’m the Principal Bassoonist and have been for the last two seasons. I’ll be starting my third season this year. I’ve devoted my life to playing— I graduated from the Eastman School of Music.  I also have been in PR and marketing at record companies for the last 20 plus years, so when this job came up, it was an ideal fit.

Besides concerts, what role does the Symphony play in the San Luis Obispo community?

We are an organization that brings music to you, your whole life.  If you are born at French Hospital you are given a CD of the Symphony. While in elementary school, you will probably experience one of the Symphony’s many music education programs. From there and if you practice, you could be a member of the Youth Symphony and then, of course, the Symphony Orchestra.  And yes, our Symphony orchestra musicians are paid. Continue reading

Music Motive Rocks Farmers Market

There’s a myriad of talent here at Music Motive; every so often, we hit the streets to show it off. A common stop for us is the San Luis Obispo’s Farmers Market where we showcase our students and teachers in a performance we’ve dubbed, Music Motive Night.

Thursday, June 6th, was a night to remember. Check out our quick recap below, which features the Bucket Busters and the Bucketeers; the world premier of Stereo Steve; as well as one of our piano teachers, Devin Welsh.

Don’t worry, we’ll play the SLO Farmer’s Market again July 11 and August 15th, but the best way to stay in the know is through our Facebook, HERE.

Music Motive Night, 6/06/13

Thanks again to Farm Supply. Music Motive and the Bucket Busters are very grateful for your support of music education on the Central Coast.

Top Free Music Education Apps

smuleguitarThe internet has changed the way the world does everything—including learning music. These days, some people go online for inspiration and education. While we would never recommend teaching oneself from a phone app alone, these tools make a great supplement to the education process.

Phone apps (or tablet apps) can kick start a child’s interest in music, they can offer a practice guide for an established musician, or simply give someone inspiration to pick up their instrument again.

So, where do we start? A quick online search will reveal hundreds upon hundreds of music education apps on the market. Depending on your needs, there’s just about everything. Some are good, some are useless, most are counter productive.

This post is dedicated to the best free music education apps I’ve come across. Keep in mind, you get what you pay for; these apps can only do so much. At the end of the day, progress in music education comes down to practice and performance.

Hopefully, these apps will help you get there. Continue reading

Spring ‘Student Spotlight’ Recap: Pictures, Videos, and Stories!

Twice a year, Music Motive hosts Student Spotlight, a live-event opportunity for students to showcase their talents in front of their friends and family. As Spotlight season approaches, we ask willing students to hand-pick a song and work ahead of time with their instructors to develop a performance. The 2013 Spring show, presented last Saturday, May 11th, was a huge success with over thirty participants!

From veteran to novice, scared stiff to show ham, the colorful spectrum of performers’ personalities, musical genres, and instruments accurately reflected the diverse student body found daily in the halls of Music Motive. Performing were violinists, vocalists, drummers, guitarists, and pianists.

For many, it was their first time performing in front of an audience. Every few minutes a young performer would stop by the front desk to nervously drum their hands on the counter or ask what time it was. Friends and family poured in and before long, students took the stage, one-by-one. Before they knew it, they were leaving the stage with accomplished and relieved hearts. A few even came back to give front desk with a genuine and hearty smile.

To our students: 

We are all SO proud of you. You guys made the afternoon fun, entertaining, and unique! Your hard work paid off and now a big performance is under your belt. Keep up the good work! We’ll have our next Student Spotlight this Fall, so be ready. Continue reading

World Beat Rhythms at Vineyard Elementary

P1010010Last week, Music Motive sponsored World Beat Percussion, a music education event at Vineyard Elementary in Templeton, CA. The presenters were Ed Roscetti and Maria Martinez, two accomplished musicians, authors, and educators (as well as good friends of ours).

We always look forward to seeing the show and hearing them play. This time was no exception. In front of a sold-out crowd, or rather, packed gymnasium, elementary children and teachers squeezed on to the floor to learn, listen to, and interact with music.

The World Beat program describes itself as a “better understanding of technique, time feel, rhythmic phrasing, song form, improvisation and leading an ensemble.”

Ed and Maria started the show with tambourines and wood blocks, quickly jumping to djembes, ending the introduction with a drum set. The kids were floored with their eyes opened wide. Smiles filtered through the crowd as African and Latin numbers soon followed. Ultimately, the kids joined in to learn the basics of rhythm through clapping and playing instruments. Continue reading