A Little Lunch Music

I admit: Not everyone was cut out to be Al DiMeola or Leo Kottke. But deep inside even the most buttoned-down of us, there's some kind of guitar hero itching to get out. Enter the folks at the Downtown Music Studio. They can help (at least with the music and singing part) and get you back to your day job on time.

Pianist Bruce Harrover founded the studio three years ago in an old bank vault in the tunnels where, he said, "the sound was really alive and we didn't have to worry about bothering anybody." Julianne Gearhart (voice) and Joel Stein (guitar, drum and jazz piano) -- Rice grads, like Harrover -- now round out the teaching staff.

Renovations at the bank building caused the threesome to move on up above ground (to the Esperson building) in October, but they certainly didn't want to leave downtown. According to Harrover, the studio's 30 to 40 regular students include oilmen, attorneys and big businesspeople who strum, drum or vocalize on their lunch breaks. No one has abandoned corporate America for a rock and roll career just yet, but remember -- it's a young studio.

With this in mind, I set off at noon one weekday -- a novice in search of guitar greatness. Stein started off slowly, sketching and labeling the guitar's six strings on a notepad while I plucked around trying to familiarize myself with the placement. Mission accomplished. Now the complicated stuff -- chords, in this case, A, E and D. Stein showed me which fingers to place on which strings and frets, and then gave me some strumming exercises to practice changing back and forth. (Okay, so it wasn't AC/DC right away, but I bet I could pass for a folk player.)

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As with any lunch hour, this one passed too quickly. With a nascent blister on my left index finger, three chords and a bad attitude, I was off to lead the next wave of Riot Grrls.

-- Melanie Haupt

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