Never too late for rock star lessons in West Loop

February 9, 2013 (CHICAGO)

It's called "The Musical U" and it's part of a hub in the West Loop called "Music Garage Chicago" that is home to hundreds of musicians.

Whether playing the piano has been a lifelong dream or a newly-discovered hobby, lessons here are probably not what you'd expect.

So many people have memories when they were growing up with the wrist-slapping nuns or the teacher that was so demanding and this is quite a bit less demanding than that," The Musical U's founder John Cordogan said.

Lessons are specifically geared toward adults and much of the focus is on having fun.

"You don't have to always just teach scales and I throw it in there and say 'Ok, here comes the boring stuff that you're going to need and here's how we're going to have fun with it," piano instructor Annie Dolan said.

Grown-up beverages are actually encouraged. Students say it's a "no-pressure" way to pick up a new skill.

"I thought it was kind of hip like BYOB," aspiring pianist Sherry Jackim said. "You can kind of peek and watch other people and see how they do and see how you're doing. I thought it was cool. I enjoyed it."

Classes are also wired to technology. Students can watch their teacher's hand positions or read sheet music on mounted flat screens.

"People are encouraged to bring their iPads. They can download the lessons as PDFs or we can email it to them. They can even charge their iPads right in our pianos," Cordogan said.

The Musical U opened about a month ago in a former warehouse that underwent a $10 million renovation to create 120 individual music studios and one of the most comprehensive drum stores anywhere.

He built a similar project in New York and then brought the concept to his hometown Chicago.

"Every room in the building can function as a sophisticated recording studio," the owner of Music Garage Chicago Scott Spector said.

The space accommodates a variety of musicians from recording artists to first-time learners.

It is a rehearsal space for a number of bands and even attracts its share of famous faces.

"We've had R. Kelly, Van Morrison, Sting with some of the Symphony Orchestra, The Black Crowes, The White T's. It's a big list," Spector said.

If you're looking for something creative to do on Valentine's Day, they are planning an event where couples can come in and learn to play a song together with wine and candle lights.