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Urbana business to teach kids to rock

The back wall of Art’s Playground, a new business in downtown Urbana, should be enough to let students know they’re not going to get a typical music lesson.

They’re going to get a crash course in how to be in a band. The business that just opened this month will teach the basics of guitar, drums, bass and keyboards, said Richard Ebert, owner and general manager of the business at 38 Monument Square. But the business will also offer group lessons, allowing kids to play together and eventually, perform on stage.

A back wall of the business is lined with old vinyl records, and a photos of ’80s hair band icons like Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue line a shelf in a rear corner of the room.

The business will serve as a sort of rock and roll academy, said Ebert, himself a drummer and former DJ with a degree in business management. But it will also encourage other forms of art, offering two-hour art classes throughout the summer.

In the future, Art’s Playground could also provide courses in performing arts and students who don’t want to play an instrument can learn about lighting and sound.

“This is really about teaching folks more than how to just play,” Ebert said. “It’s teaching them how to perform together in a group.”

Initially, students will learn songs from bands like the Beatles. But eventually, the goal is to allow students to decide what they want to play, whether that’s rock, country, hip-hop or something else. Students will need to bring their own instruments, but the business has hired several instructors who specialize in various instruments. If students can’t practice at home, they can also use one of several practice rooms available at Art’s Playground.

After a 12-week session, students will get a chance to perform as a band.

The art classes, which will also begin this summer, will allow students to use everyday household items to create their own art. If needed, Ebert said the business will offer gallery space to let them show it off as well. Art instructors will be on hand to offer advice, but students will be able to decide on their own what their project should be.

Several organizations in Champaign County are trying to give students opportunities to learn about the arts, and Ebert said this will be a unique option.

“I’d like to be a spoke in that wheel to be able to make that happen,” he said.

Classes will cost about $199 a month for the music lessons, or $149 per month if students don’t want to perform at the end. Art lessons will cost $25 per class or $125 for 7 lessons. The courses will focus on students from 7 to 17 years old, but eventually there may be options for adults with interest as well.

For more information, residents can call 937-652-2787 or The business has a website at, and is also on Facebook and Twitter.

The goal, Ebert said, is to make a viable business that introduces students to several forms of art.

“I’ve always been a great supporter of the arts,” Ebert said. “I think the arts are so important.”

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