When Pat Petrillo decided to bring his love of music to the town he calls home, he wanted a place that would reflect that love along with his passion for teaching.
Launched in May this year, Petrillo's school located in Monmouth Junction, provides a destination for music lovers of all ages and skill levels. The school offers lessons for piano, guitar, drums, voice, and winds. Music Tech focuses on contemporary popular music like rock, blues, soul and jazz. It also offers both half hour and one-hour private lessons, in addition to rock and blues band classes.
"We wanted to create an atmosphere that's dedicated to contemporary music, as opposed to a school that sells instruments and teaches on the side," Petrillo said. "This is an environment that's conducive to creativity."
Walking into Music Tech provides a glimpse into a musician's dream. Various rooms are dedicated to the teaching of different instruments, with rooms for the piano, drums, and guitar among others. The lobby provides a place for students to hang out and listen to music. The walls are lined with mementos celebrating The Beatles, as well as playbills for the Broadway shows Petrillo has played in.
"Our facility is set up so we have everything you need to teach correctly and teach well," he said. "We have state of the art gear and great equipment. We're still setting up a rehearsal and recording room. The whole facility is set up to focus on the curriculum we developed with our teachers, who are all degreed professionals."
Petrillo's love of music began at an early age, and continued as he began teaching music at the young age of 15. Petrillo earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Morehead State University, and then began a career that brought him to the stages of Broadway to play in shows like "Grease" and "Footloose."
"Music is something that I've always done, back to when I was teaching drums as a teenager," Petrillo said. "I always knew that I would play and teach. I feel like my mission is to spread music education in a way that is more contemporary and modern. I got into this because I have a love for music and I want to develop that in others as a teacher."
Petrillo has also played with music legends like Patti LaBelle and Gloria Gaynor. But with 20 years of experience as a music teacher in New York City, Petrillo wanted to set up a more permanent home for his business in South Brunswick.
"This is actually my second school, but since I live in South Brunswick I wanted to make this more of a home base for myself," he said. "With playing on Broadway I still have that element of what I do, but I wanted to develop more of a local presence so I don't have to go into New York everyday."
In addition to offering music lessons, the school also provides an opportunity for students who play different instruments to combine their talents and work together playing in a band.
"Instead of someone just coming to your house to teach, we have studios that offer something like our performance band classes, that puts drummers with bassists and guitarists to teach students how to play in a band by our instructors," Petrillo said. "This goes hand-in-hand with our philosophy of creating a music arts school here. Kids get confidence and practical application lessons that are a stepping-stone to being a performer.
"If you only take lessons and never perform you're missing out on the totality of the music experience, which is ultimately about interacting with other people. That interaction is often missing with today's youth and interacting with other musicians is a key component of the music experience."
The lessons provided by Music Tech also pay dividends outside of the studio, as the discipline it takes to become proficient with an instrument also key to other areas of academia. Petrillo said he's seen the benefits of a music education first-hand with his own two daughters.
"Studying any instrument is a discipline and it's proven that kids who study music test better because it improves their concentration and focus," he said. "The artistic side of your brain needs to be nourished as well. Music does foster improved skills. I've seen it with my own kids, who are both musically inclined."
Located down the road from South Brunswick High School and next to Jer-Z-Jump on Stouts Lane, Petrillo hopes to keep expanding Music Tech to offer a broader range of programming. The school is in the process of adding an area for teaching dance, and Petrillo hopes to launch a recording studio in the coming years.
"I'm really excited about the dance school, because in my career I've done a lot of Broadway shows and I feel like music and dance are natural partners," he noted. "We're going to have a rhythm dance school be a branch of Music Tech starting in September. We'll have acro, zumba, tap and a full service dance school that gives the best of both worlds, for music and dance, at this facility."
Even after only being open for a few months, the school has already brought in students from all over New Jersey.
As he continues to look for ways to evolve the music experience in South Brunswick, Petrillo said he hopes the school will become a gathering place for music lovers of all ages and skill levels.
"We want this to be a place where musically inclined students of any musical genre feel comfortable to come and hang out in our lobby, listen to music and play together," he said. "We offer free consultations for anybody to come in and experience what we have. If you are in a band already, we provide a service to coach your band and help you prepare material to get better. We will be able to record your group as well."
Music Tech is located at 43 Stouts Lane in Monmouth Junction. Click here to visit their web site or call 732-329-6789 for more information.
"Music is meant to be fun and enjoyable," Petrillo said. "Although it takes a lot of work to learn an instrument, the goal is to make this fun and enjoyable while at the same time developing the skills it takes to be a good musician."