“Flat 5 Music Studios” started off as a dream, which later turned into reality. As a young boy, Fred Barrera dreamt of playing metal music like some of his musical idols. His business partner, Jonathan Arias, had a dream of producing Jazz infused sounds. Unfortunately for both, Laredo studios largely focused on classical music, and they did not have the ability to teach those styles of music. This led Barrera and Arias to teach themselves through any means possible; Barrera went as far as asking another musician, playing metal at Hermes Music, to teach him.
Today, Flat 5 Music Studios provides inspiring musicians or musical lovers an alternative to teaching themselves through informal means such as YouTube. Whether you are barely picking up your first instrument or have years of practice, Flat 5 provides an opportunity for young metal heads and jazz lovers to learn to play what they wish and further their musical knowledge. “Flat 5 Music Studios is musical education that caters to the customer, as opposed to before when you had to learn Mozart and didn’t have a say” Arias explained. As someone who wanted to play Jazz, Arias agrees that the foundations within classical music are important, but there are alternative methods to gaining the same knowledge.
This is visible through their ability to use their own musical knowledge to educate their students. What make Flat 5 Music Studios different is its rock core, and their ability to incorporate that into different musical styles. Posters of famous bands and artists from Jimi Hendrix, Atreyu, KISS, and even local artists cover the walls. Racks full of Guitar World and other musical magazines entertain guests as they enter the teal shaded walls and sit on the leather couch waiting to be received. Through their musical displays, their instruments, and staff members—this studio oozes rock. However, Barrera and Arias are happily willing to learn and teach other genres of music. Flat 5 Music Studios provides a music haven where students can learn any style of music: classical, country, rock, and even techno.
Barrera has been teaching for over 10 years; his musical knowledge credited to Elmo Lopez Music Company, where he met Arias. Arias worked at Elmo Lopez for approximately 4 years on the retail aspect of the store. This allowed Arias to gain his knowledge of instruments and their components. Today, Barrera and Arias work in unison as owners of Flat 5 Music Studios, where they teach students how to play the piano, guitar, and drums, among other instruments and vocals. Barrera and Arias go the extra mile to teach their students, by deviating from traditional methods. This is not to say that they don’t teach their students basic techniques, such as reading music. However, when students want to learn a certain song or rhythm, they will learn the song and teach it to their students part by part. “The goal is to essentially be able to read music fluently, but sometimes the music doesn’t lend itself to it,” Arias explained. He adds sometimes if it’s too advanced, it is easier for him to teach how to count rhythms, and then later worry about reading. In addition to this, they also discuss the theory and background of the song, in order to further their student’s musical knowledge.
Flat 5 Music Studios gives musicians other opportunities to make their own choices and how their lessons fit into their lifestyle. To help accommodate music lessons into busy family schedules, Flat 5 Studios does not operate under contract, like other Laredo studios. This allows parents and students the liberty to work at their own pace and take off time when necessary. Their primary focus is to meet the customer’s needs, and this gives them the liberty to decide their own schedule. Registration is open to the public at any time, whether it is the beginning or the middle of the month. The ability of Barrera and Arias to listen to the needs of their students makes for a more successful business and for students to give their best.This hard work and dedication has paid off with a number of students that have stepped out of their studio with superior musical knowledge and talent. Barrera often has previous students stopping him to share their current endeavors. For example, Arias and Barrera taught ‘Volatile Colour,’ a Laredo band, who recently released their full-length professionally recorded album and music video. ‘Volatile Colour’ is a prime example, of the capacity that Flat 5 Music Studios has to offer to future and current students.
Barrera and Arias see their business, and particularly music, contributing to the shaping of Laredo youth. It takes them from the streets to the studio. Their contributions can also be seen through their participation in the community. Occasionally, Barrera, Arias, and their band will play local events at the Laredo Center for the Arts and local organizations to encourage children and other members of the community to pick up an instrument. Currently, the music scene is largely underground and supported by kids who lack the funds to support their dreams. Due to their lack of funds, most children give up their dream of playing an instrument. Barrera and Arias are grateful to those who shared their musical knowledge with them, and they hope to help children not lose their musical aspirations. One of Flat 5 Music Studios’s goals is to “get kids playing so that they can be more interested in music. The more kids we get interested in playing music, the bigger the scene will be and maybe finally it will come out,” Barrera and Arias acknowledged.
As far as opening their own business, Barrera and Arias are accomplishing their dream of sharing their knowledge to other Laredoans and providing a musical space for new and experienced musicians. They never thought they would have their ownsign, enough money to paint their walls, or even as many students as they do now. Both Barrera and Arias encourage new business owners to “stick with it” regardless or profit. “It’s tough but the good thing is that we do this because we love it, more than anything,” both Barrera and Arias declared. They recognize that ultimately there is profit in their business, but advice against expecting large profit in the beginning. Ultimately, Arias encourages new business owners to “shred through those tough times” and guarantees with enough dedication most will get through it.
Flat 5 Music Studios also offers other services including: repairs with a specialization in guitars and amps, rehearsal space for bands seeking an alternative to noise limiting hot garages and the outdoors, and entertainment. As local musicians and instructors, Barrera and Arias will also find you a band for your event or able to perform themselves. If you are looking for a fun, accommodating environment to learn to play an instrument, improve your vocals, or get your musical equipment repaired; Flat 5 Music Studios is the place. Not only are you guaranteed excellent service, but their staff is friendly and ready to work one-on-one or provide group sessions to accommodate different learning styles and levels.
Flat 5 Music Studios is located at 8602 McPherson Rd. Unit #111. Store hours are Monday-Friday 4 p.m.-8 p.m. and Saturdays 11 a.m.-4 p.m.