The time and place to ‘rock’

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published July 9, 2014

 Musicians Community Center & Rock Academy lead music instructor Troy Gregory works with Dominic Cugliari, 10, of Grosse Pointe Farms. Cugliari finds inspiration from the band Metallica, the only band he listens to.

Musicians Community Center & Rock Academy lead music instructor Troy Gregory works with Dominic Cugliari, 10, of Grosse Pointe Farms. Cugliari finds inspiration from the band Metallica, the only band he listens to.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

WARREN — Under posters of Bob Marley, the Beatles, Rush and the Ramones, students of the Musicians Community Center & Rock Academy make small talk during the late afternoon hours of July 1.

Then, at the direction of lead music instructor Troy Gregory, they head over to the center’s  performance room where they rock out a rendition of the Monkee’s “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” before practicing the Kinks’ “All Day and All of the Night.”

Ten-year-old Dominic Cugliari, of Grosse Pointe Farms; 11-year-old Michael Faucher, of Chesterfield: and 13-year-old Zoe Hecker, of Royal Oak, were among the students rehearsing.

Making music is the backdrop of the MCC & Rock Academy. Nestled at 22727 Nagel St., on a block of houses and industrial buildings, the MCC & Rock Academy was Marlo Carver’s vision. Ten years ago, she and her husband Gordon Carver purchased a 13,000-square foot building on Nagel.  They took 10,000-square feet of it to build the Hive Colony, which provides rehearsal space to local and national bands. Leases are done on a yearly basis.

Two years ago, the Carvers opened the Musicians Community Center with the mission to educate, empower and encourage local musicians through festivals, music conferences and training opportunities. From there, the Rock Academy was added, offering low-cost private music lessons in guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and vocal, along with songwriting classes, audio recording, video production and more. Students — ranging from ages 5 to 80 — also perform locally.

“We always said if that would become successful, we wanted to give back to the community,” said Marlo Carver, executive director of the MCC & Rock Academy. “Our goal was to help musicians. We saw there was a need for local bands who needed guidance on how to promote themselves, how to book gigs. We purchased equipment and slowly have invested.

“We definitely have kids who are going to be musicians,” she said. “They’re gifted. They’re unbelievable talents. It’s touching to see how they support each other.”

“This is a great place. My kids love it,” said Kim Chambers, of Roseville, whose daughter Jacquelyn Chambers, 19, takes vocal lessons and son Isaac Reyes, 8, will begin drums lesson this fall.

Ninety percent of the organization’s income is generated from tuition. Along with Marlo Carver and Gregory, staff members are audio engineer and drum instructor Gordon Carver; lead drum instructor and office manager Paul Washchuk; and lead vocal coach and PR manager Maria Wade. The focus in on rock and alternative music, and the sounds of Motown. Wade is known to practice opera, too, with students. Becoming a voice coach at the academy wasn’t what she planned to do.

“Marlo sort of dragged me,” Wade said, who changed her tune and now looks “forward to everyday being with the students.” According to Wade, who began performing professionally at 14, anyone can learn to sing.

“I believe everyone has a voice. Know your limitations and enhance what you have,” she said.

Students initially enter the doors for various reasons.

“Right now, I’m taking guitar lessons, but I mainly play drums. I really like drums, but I’m trying to expand,” said 18-year-old Dylan Flanigan, of St. Clair Shores. “Troy has lots of experience. He’s a good teacher.”

Last week, the students rehearsed loud and proud to prepare for two shows this week. They will perform from 7-9 p.m. July 10 at the movie night at the Warren Civic Center, One City Square, and again from noon-2 p.m. July 11 at the Kids Day 109th annual Detroit Gold Cup boat races, where Wade will sing the American and Canadian national anthems.

“It’s nice to play in front of strangers because you get out there,” 15-year-old Emily Frakes said, sporting a Joy Division T-shirt. The Roseville resident is focusing on bass guitar right now but has decided to sing, too.

Seventeen-year-old Logan Fitzgerald, who lives in Imlay City with his mom and Pontiac with his dad, came to the MCC & Rock Academy to focus on bass guitar.

“I play everything now,” he said. “Everyone is a teacher here. I learn something from everyone.”

Fitzgerald would like to make it in the music busines. He is currently recording an album with Gregory. In true rock ‘n’ roll fashion, Fitzgerald started playing bass because of a girl.

“She said she needed a bass player in her band,” Fitzgerald said.

Other upcoming show dates include Warrens’ Birthday Bash from 1-6 p.m., Aug. 24; Warren’s Farmers Market from noon-2 p.m. Sept. 7; Warren’s Harvest Treat from 3-5 p.m. Oct. 18; and the WRIF 101 FM Rock For Tots Dec. 7 with the time to be announced.

For more information on the Musicians Community Center & Rock Academy, call (586) 883-8977 or visit