OCEANSIDE — Along Coast Highway is a music studio that is giving back to the community.
Andy and Pam Allen first opened Coastal Music Studios in 2012 with only one student.
Today, the music studio has 11 teachers on staff and sees more than 300 students on a weekly basis.
Students pay for private lessons with the teachers, but children in between second and eighth grades can join the North County Children’s Choir for free.
Each year, the children’s choir performs in its Christmas 4 Kidz concert along with the studio’s private lesson students and dancers from the nearby Cadence Dance Project in Oceanside.
Proceeds from the annual concert usually go to local charities like Got Your Back San Diego, which provides weekend meals to food insecure students, and international charities like World Vision International, a Christian humanitarian organization that aims to tackle poverty and injustice in communities around the world.
“It’s teaching kids that they can use their talents to change the world,” Andy Allen said.
Other organizations Coastal Music Studios and the children’s choir have teamed up with include Interfaith Community Services and Brother Benno’s.
The couple said they prefer to partner with smaller, local charities serving children that don’t have massive corporate sponsorships with the exception of World Vision, which helps them meet their goal of teaching their students they can impact the world on a local and global scale.
According to the Allens, private lessons are what pay the bills for Coastal Music Studios. Rather than raise money for themselves, they prefer to give back to the community through fundraisers.
“We’ve always wanted to make sure that we’re giving back, that our DNA as a business is more of a social enterprise,” Andy said.
They also aim to give out as much free music as possible like with the choir. They’ve even started a nonprofit organization, Coastal Music and Arts Foundation, which now serves as the parent organization to the children’s choir and aims to bring more music and arts to the community.
“Kids may not have access to music in school as much as they used to, especially here in California,” Andy said. “Just because they can’t afford a private music lesson doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have access to a music program.”
Many schools in California have downsized their music and arts programs, which is how Pam Allen lost her job as a music teacher in Del Mar several years ago.
After that, the couple decided to pursue their dream of opening up a music studio that expands access to music in the community.
Andy Allen oversees the business and event production side of Coastal Music Studios while Pam Allen focuses on the studio’s educational component and teaches lessons as well. She also directs the North County Children’s Choir.
Though based in Oceanside, Coastal Music Studios serves all of North County, with people traveling from as far as Temecula for lessons from “professional musicians who are phenomenal teachers.”
Andy Allen said he’s constantly interviewing to find people who fit that mold because the studio doesn’t show any sign of slowing down its growth.
“One of the coolest things is finding this team of people who have that sort of intangible thing, that magic thing — a heart,” Pam Allen said. “I feel really privileged to spend our days with the people we spend our days with. They’re good at what they do.”
The couple explained that they have let the studio “grow organically” — instead of coming up with a specific vision for the North County community, they decided to let it form on its own based on the wants and needs of the community.
“We’re figuring out what North County needs rather than telling them what is needed,” Pam Allen said.
Coastal Music Studios currently offers private music lessons in piano; voice; pop and performance vocal training; acoustic, electric and bass guitars; drums and ukulele. They plan on adding lessons in songwriting, recording and production, DJ and beat production and performance coaching soon.
The studio also offers a program for homeschooled students. For 16 weeks, a three-hour class is held weekly on Thursday mornings integrating art, music and theater for students. The studio finished its first full year with the Homeschool ARTS Program and anticipates it will grow in the fall.
The studio also offers several summer camps, including its returning ukulele and drum circle camps as well as this year’s new Around the World in 8 Musicals and Disney camps.
The studio also holds showcases for its students throughout the year as well as other various shows in the community. They also host open mic nights for students, which is an ideal setting for the studio’s adult students who make up about 10 percent of the studio.
Andy Allen said performance is a big component to the studio’s culture.
“It’s one thing to just be in the practice room but to get from the practice room to performance is a real strong component to being a musician,” he said.
For younger students, that performance element gives them feedback and demonstrates the results of their hard work.
“It’s more than music at that point,” Andy Allen said. “It gives them self-esteem and confidence in their own character and work ethic.”
Samantha Nelson covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son