At Whole Tone Music, young teachers bring music to students of all ages in a fun environment

Gabriel Guerra comes from a vibrant Central American family with a father who was a DJ and where he was always surrounded by music. He grew to love music and enrolled in guitar lessons at age seven. 

In July 2020, Guerra and friend Matt Roes opened the Whole Tone Music School on 43 Bridgeport Rd. E., Waterloo. The school is a welcoming place for any student to come to have fun and hone in on a musical skill.

The school offers guitar, piano, drums, voice, violin, ukulele and acting/ theatre lessons for students aged five and up from a team of 10 teachers. The first lesson is free, so that the student can see if the instructor and class are the right fit for them.

“We really want to help people become the best versions of themselves through learning an instrument. And I’m excited that we’re growing, because that means that we’re going to be able to help so many more people” Guerra said.

Guerra’s passion for music continued throughout his childhood—he continued learning to play the guitar and taught himself how to play the piano when he was 13. He attests that a lot of his further musical influence growing up was thanks to the Arts program at his high school Eastwood Collegiate Institute (ECI). He then went to the University of Waterloo for classical singing and graduated in 2019. 

“Music is just what I’ve done for the last 15 years,” Guerra said. “I got really into [learning the guitar] largely in part to the teacher I had. He was showing me the [songs] I wanted to learn so that I was just motivated to practice and everything.” 

Guerra decided he wanted to dedicate his life to teaching music because he knew he could benefit students through an approach that he felt was lacking in a lot of schools. 

“It almost feels like a lot of teachers don’t make the time to really get to know their students in a way that would allow them to understand what kind of things they enjoy, how they learn best and what will make the lessons fun for them. So I knew that that’s something that I could potentially bring to the table. And that’s what got me into teaching,” he said. 

Guerra, like most of the teachers on the team, is under 30. Being 23 years old, Guerra pointed out that a lot of times when parents meet him for the first time they are shocked at how young he is to be running his own music school. 

 “It’s the funniest thing when parents will walk in for the first time and they’ll see me and almost do a double take, almost like, this can’t be the same person that I was emailing,” Guerra said.

“I’ve had students who are in their 50s, 60s and 70s. And I think once they see that ‘Gabe knows what he’s talking about’ [and that] it’s just something that I’ve put in the work for. The age doesn’t matter anymore,” he said. 

Whole Tone Music School has a fun and fresh environment, and the teachers are more relatable for their students. The instructors firmly believe that anyone can play an instrument, the only key element they need is practice and to put in the work. 

“It’s very easy for our students to relate to us and see us almost like a role model, rather than a teacher. And just relatability in general [the school] allows us to hopefully have a meaningful impact on their lives because of the relationship that we’re able to build with them,” Guerra said. 

“Some students do learn faster than others. But it’s really only for the first little bit because after that, it’s totally just dependent on how much work you’re willing to put in that will directly correlate to how well you can play your instrument,” Guerra said.

Due to the current stay-at-home order, all music lessons have moved online. However, when in-person learning is reinstated, students can choose whether they want to stick with remote learning if they are more comfortable with that or come into the studio where safety is a top priority.