Lexy Nicole pulls the microphone in.
It’s close enough for her to sing into, but she isn’t quite ready to let her voice loose just yet. She has to adjust the cord, which she clutches in her left hand, and gathers herself as he prepares to step off into a three-song set.
She shifts back-and-forth and back-and-forth in her black canvas shoes, and seems almost nervous as she drops her head down and starts to bounce a little in place. Maybe it was getting the shakes out. Maybe it was a warm up.
Then she calls out a song name, the band she’s a been a part of for seven months – Nexus – rips into a thundering take that echoes throughout the halls of the building that they’ve called their rehearsal space ever since they first got together.
At this point there’s no nervousness evident by Nicole or anybody else in the band as with each note and each chord they become looser – taking steps forward, letting their hair fly, mouthing the words before ripping into a brief solo – and more polished.
They’re a product of Gordon Kennedy’s music machine. And Nexus – which also includes guitarist Ryan Schroeder, guitarist Canaan Benson, drummer Max Brayman, and bassist Joey Johnson – is proof that Kennedy, the owner and operator of GK Music, knows what he’s doing when he puts young musicians together.
For several years now, Kennedy has used his private music instruction academy to take young, hungry hopefuls and pair them with likeminded souls to create a sound a balance that works for all involved. It all starts with the basic fundamentals – structural music theory and the understanding of what they’re doing in a true musical sense.
The ability to break down chord progressions. The ability to read any sheet of music put in front of them.
At that point, they’re ready to join forces with others like them, and bands like Nexus – of which Nicole is the lead singer – are able to make waves.
Just recently they were named one of the finalists in the prestigious Hayward Battle of the Bands at Chabot College. Only 12 bands from throughout the Bay Area and Central California get in, and a group of young players – who have only been playing together for six months – made the cut.
“It was the most amazing thing, and it went by so fast,” Nicole said of the experience of playing on that sort of stage. “To be able to do that and make that cut gives me and the guys a lot of hope for the future and what it is that we’re doing.
“I think that having so many representatives from the Central Valley there showed that we deserved to be there, and that’s a great thing.”
Kennedy’s musical tinkering has been quite successful recently. Nexus was only one of three GK Music bands that played in the Hayward Battle of the Bands, and one of them – Time Frame – took home the top prize.
It’s a feather in the cap for Kennedy, to be sure, but it’s also an opportunity for young bands like Time Frame to open doors for live performances that wouldn’t have existed before. The phone, Kennedy said, has been ringing off the hook since they took home the trophy.
“It’s great for them, and it’s great because we use the battle as a learning tool for our students,” Kennedy said. “The judges are good about giving us score sheets, and the one thing that we really encourage is perfection – no mistakes.
“So in the end it comes down to whether the judges like the music or not. And if you look at our bands that played, they were pretty perfect. And I think that bands like Time Frame winning is a huge deal because that’s such a prestigious event – it’ll open a lot of doors for them.”
Kennedy has been teaching music since 1985, and in the end, he says, the success all comes down to the private lesson and the dedication of the student to continue beyond those confines. For some that means joining one of the bands that the programs put together. For others it’s branching out on one’s own. Either way, the basic framework of music, according to Kennedy, is necessary to build upon.
And he’s dedicated to his students. As he paces through the hallways of the new digs that the company moved into on Center Street six months ago, his name echoes through the narrow hallway.
“Gordon can I do this?”
“Gordon can I do that?”
He stops to answer each question, and then moves on – methodically – like a taskmaster making sure that everything is getting done the way that it’s supposed to. He speaks softly but with authority, and his relationship with his students appears to be one of mutual respect – he sees the talent and ability in each and every student that sticks with the program, and they see a talented music man willing to take the time to teach them the ways of the stage.
The business has expanded in the last year to include art and drama classes, and the crossover between the fine arts and music, he said, can be seamless – a cross-pollination between the mediums.
But music is where his heart lies. And in that vein, it’s what he’s able to best convey to the students that have the same passion.
“I love teenagers, and when I was younger I played in a bunch of bands and it just always seemed like work – everything that went into it,” Kennedy said. “When I got the chance to teach students, I got the opportunity to see them succeed, and that’s the funnest thing about doing this.
“It’s about the kids.”
GK Music is located at 1002 W. Center Street. For additional information about programs or upcoming events call (209) 923-4121 or visit www.gkmusic.org.