So Cal Music Academy hits the right chord

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When David Bramley talks, his students listen closely, an advantage of his British way of speaking. When he plays the piano or guitar, they sit, rapt with attention and wait for their turn to drum or strum.

Hailing from England and now living in La Mesa with his wife and daughter, Bramley has found great success as founder, proprietor and teacher of So Cal Music Academy in Lakeside. It was a long time in coming, though.

When David Bramley talks, his students listen closely, an advantage of his British way of speaking. When he plays the piano or guitar, they sit, rapt with attention and wait for their turn to drum or strum.

Hailing from England and now living in La Mesa with his wife and daughter, Bramley has found great success as founder, proprietor and teacher of So Cal Music Academy in Lakeside. It was a long time in coming, though.

Growing up in England is very different from America, culturally and in many other ways, Bramley said. For one thing, there is very little emphasis to play organized sports.

“I can’t think of anyone I know who played a sport in school or outside, with the exception of soccer kick-abouts in at the park.

“But the band culture was extremely strong. A lot of my friends and teachers were in bands and it was the norm to go and watch a band on a Friday night. It’s just what you did in high school,” Bramley said.

Quite literally, Bramley had a bass guitar shoved into his hands at a friends’ band practice when he was 14.

“My friend said something along the lines of “put your finger there, and pluck when the drummer hits that drum,”” Bramley remembers.

That was all Bramley needed to completely immerse himself in music. He played continuously in bands from that point on, educating himself, and he picked up anything he could from other musicians.

Years later, at the University of Salford, he ended up with Honors degrees in both Music and Acoustics. Unfortunately, he had been so convinced by others that a career in music was not a viable financial option, so when he moved to America, and eventually to the San Diego area, he settled for a bank office job.

“And I hated every second of it,” Bramley said.

He wanted to keep alive the music that was in his DNA, so he also began working part-time as a music teacher. Before long he had built up a reasonable student base and moved to a credit union, which allowed him to work part time and continue building his roster of students.

He was able to finally quit the credit union, partnering with a friend to go full time with the studio. At this time, he also worked as a realtor. When his friend and partner moved out of state, Bramley used his last commission check to construct and open the studio.

So Cal Music Academy is Bramley’s pride and joy, and well deserved.       

His degree in acoustics has come in handy. “Acoustics is all about how sound moves, and that has really helped me when I built out my studio here in Lakeside,” he said.

The original space used to be just one room, but with Bramley’s know-how, a wall now separates two practice rooms from each other. In the back practice room, kids can bang on drums to their heart’s content and not bother at all while Krista Timm teaches ukulele or guitar in the adjoining room.

Timm is one of Bramley’s many star pupils. She began taking ukulele lessons and now not only is teaching other students, but she sings and strums in public.

Most of the students are given opportunities to perform in public. Bramley proudly points to the photographs on the wall of his students playing at various venues around, including Better Days Pizzeria, just down the street in Lakeside.

“One time, we totally packed out that place with nearly twenty of my students. It was great, and everyone had a good time,” Bramley said, all smiles.

On Fridays and Saturdays, Bramley typically goes to students’ band practices, coaching them and giving pointers. He also organizes and attends gigs for his students. The academy also does a lot of recording.

“We just finished a student’s first album,” Bramley said. “Before that it was a band of students recording their own punk rock demo. I have another band about to play their first gig, and another band practicing for the second time ever on Friday.”

The syllabus that Bramley designed is quite pragmatic, combining traditional music theory with real skills of jamming, gigging, song writing and recording.

“Music theory is music theory, but you can apply it to any genre of music, whether you’re learning Metallica or Taylor Swift,” Bramley said.

Bramley’s way of teaching has been phenomenally successful; he rarely needs to advertise. Most of his new students come about by praise of his students and their parents. Some of his students are winning Miss Outstanding Teen competitions, some are getting their music degrees at SDSU, and others are leading worship in churches.

Other students are working as sound engineers, some are playing regular shows; still others are building guitars, or recording albums, and writing their own songs.

“And still others just like to be able to sit around the campfire and play and sing “Country Roads” with their family,” he said.

Bramley chose the space in Lakeside for his studio because of the community interaction. The library, skate park, lake and community center is all right behind the studio.

“I think SCMA filled a gap,” he said.

In fact, Bramley has received never-ending calls from people every day asking about lessons.

“There’s a want for this,” he said.

So Cal Music Academy offers lessons in piano, voice, guitar, drums, bass guitar, upright bass, ukulele, banjo and mandolin.

For more information, call Bramley at 619-956-6594 or go to www.SoCalMusicAcademy.com.

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