Deep down, most people have an inner rock star. Screaming fans, limousines, performing on stage. Take that dream, mix in a music education experience, and you get Rock Stars of Tomorrow.
The idea for a school of rock music for the Inland Empire began in the fall of 2005 for Robert Gonzalez, who began teaching his own children about his first love: music. Soon the children of a few friends joined, and through word-of-mouth, Robert’s classes grew. With schools slashing music programs in their area, Robert and his wife Trina set out to make learning fun for young, budding musicians. It was a project from the heart that they could work on together as a couple.
“Music has always been his passion,” said Trina Gonzalez. “So when he came up with the idea for a rock school, I encouraged him in every way I could because you never know until you try,” she said.
By spring 2006, Robert and Trina opened their rock school inside an industrial building near Corona, CA. It didn’t take long for word to spread about the cool musical opportunity for boys and girls in the region, and within months, the school was holding music classes six evenings a week. The performance-based instruction school offered lessons in guitar, bass, voice, piano, drums, recording and production. They called it West Coast Rock School.
West Coast Rock School enrolled students ages seven to seventeen from San Bernardino, Riverside, and Orange counties. Students were fully immersed in one-of-a-kind rock and roll classes with a chance to perform on stage several times a year, including an opportunity to perform as an opening act for some of the biggest names in rock music.
Haley Vega was just 12 when she started singing in church as a way to boost her self-confidence in front of crowds of people. Shortly after that experience, Haley joined one of the West Coast Rock School classes, learning all she could from the husband-wife team of Trina and Robert Gonzalez.
The music education Haley received from the Gonzalez team changed her life dramatically. “It’s given her confidence and she’s grown so much,” said Haley’s mother Tonya Vega. Haley and her friends formed a trio of rock-and-rollers from middle school who have set their sights on careers in music. “This is my dream now, to be an artist and express my art through music and lyrics, and I owe it all to Robert and Trina,” said Haley.
When they’re not on stage rehearsing, the rock school students are hitting the books, literally, doing homework in between sets. “They really put in a lot of hard work and are committed to both good grades and their music, which makes a big difference in achieving goals,” said Trina Gonzalez.
While Robert and Trina worked to help their students achieve success, and in many cases overcome adversity, they maintained full time jobs outside of their music school. Robert has a pool cleaning business while Trina is a still photographer. Not long ago, Trina quietly battled cancer, sharing her journey with only a handful of people. Her mere grit, perseverance, and determination to continue helping others during her illness is what we so often see in the American Spirit. Trina and Robert have been married nearly 20 years, and they continued to operate their rock school in between chemotherapy treatments and doctor appointments. As Trina recovered, they made the decision to merge the school with the franchise Rock Stars of Tomorrow.
“We’ve had to modify what we got going on, but right now, it’s working well for young musicians in the Inland Empire and I can be there to support my wife,” Gonzalez said.
Robert and Trina believe music is something that should be shared with as many people as possible, noting that when people play together, the experience becomes an event for the entire family to enjoy.
“I think the most rewarding thing is to see the young people transform from super shy, introverted individuals to outgoing and exuberant performers,” said Trina. “For many of our students, there was a time when they wouldn’t even get out of the car to walk into our classes, but rock school changed their lives; we see them singing on-stage and rocking out, it’s really exciting for us,” she said.
Rock Stars of Tomorrow and the Gonzalez team continue to be innovators in music education’ they plan to open more rock schools in California. Their student rock bands now perform at events such as WARP Tour and have opened for Rick Derringer, Lita Ford and Blue Oyster Cult. Gonzalez said, “It’s been a big, long journey but I’m so grateful my wife and I can make a difference in the lives of aspiring musicians, and it’s really super fun.” That’s the American Spirit.
Mary Parks, Television Personality, Award-Winning Journalist