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New schoolhouse to rock

The school building stands empty as if closed for spring break. The parking lot is vacant except for one blue Nissan. Through the glass doors, blue-carpeted halls lie dark and abandoned. The only sign of life is a painting of flowers on the glass of the rear doors. This seems to be the only thing the children of Fifth Avenue Alternative Elementary School, located at 210 W. 5th Ave., left behind.

This building will soon be the home of Groove U, a two-year music college focused on preparing students for a career involved in business, live, video, interactive and production of music.

Registration for next fall will open in a few weeks, according to Dwight Heckelman, founder of Groove U. Until then, prospective students can fill out an interest form online to receive more information on enrollment at www.grooveu.net.

“My whole goal … is to just build the Columbus music community,” Heckelman said.

With more than 15 years of experience in music engineering, production and education, Heckelman said he knows about every topic in the field of music business.

He said Groove U can provide students with the information and connections to start a music career in just two years, but this type of specialty school can also serve as a supplement to a four-year university.

“About two out of five people in this business are self-employed, and about four out of five people are working for someone who’s self employed,” Heckelman said. “Nobody is teaching students how to work for themselves.”

The tuition for Groove U includes specific benefits, such as a technology package including a laptop, attendance to the South by Southwest music festival, private music lessons, seminars and more. Tuition is estimated to be $24,998, according to their website.

Heckleman said that he wants to ensure transparency with tuition fees and eliminate the need for hidden course fees and extra materials.

Ebony Jeanette, publicist for Groove U, said this school will put Columbus in a pivotal position inside the music industry.

“(Groove U) will really be churning out people who are going to know what they’re doing  when they get into that career setting,” she said.

Heckelman said he returned to Columbus in June 2009 after implementing the music program at Hocking College and working at Berklee College of Music, because he thought no one was doing music industry education right yet.

“I thought that I was uniquely positioned to be able to do it right, because I had all the background in the industry,” he said. “Plus, I had the background in teaching, so I just felt that it was going to be right if I could do it on my own.”

David Foust, fourth-year in city and regional planning, is the founder and president of the electronic music club at Ohio State, which offers live shows, DJ and music production workshops and social events.

Foust said that the group has had more public response to their DJ and production workshops, which is still mostly experimental. When hearing about Groove U and their focus on music production, Foust said the curiosity about the industry is out there, and the school sounds like a good idea.

“I think there would definitely be a lot of people interested in it,” Foust said. “Even I might look at it.”

Daniel McClory, a second-year in chemical engineering, said that Groove U might provide an alternative to music colleges like the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.

“I know from marching band at my high school that a lot of the kids would try to get into CCM if they were really serious … about music,” McClory said. “CCM is very picky about who they pick too, so (Groove U) would give people more options in Ohio.”

Emily Mendell, a second-year in engineering, said she doesn’t know about the music scene in Columbus, but thinks the school would benefit music students.

“I think that would be good for people that just want music, because I know here you have to take English and all the (pre-requisites) that you wouldn’t use in music,” she said.

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