Santa Cruz Rehearsal Studios
Written by Julia Sinns
Jenn Gallacher shows me the custom built doors and green-glued acoustic walls at Santa Cruz Rehearsal Studios, the rental equipment, the soundboards. “I don’t play music so it’s all kind of lost on me.” It seems funny coming from the co-owner of a music rehearsal studio, but she says it works perfectly.
“All the pieces have to be there for a band to be successful, and a seriously key piece is your fans. I am a great music fan,” she says. “I’m sure it’s a relief for most bands to have someone around them who has no ear, who’s not going notice that you are playing in the wrong key or that you didn’t hit that note.”
Jenn Gallacher runs Santa Cruz Rehearsal Studios with her husband, Paul. She’d been in the music industry for years before SCRS became a reality, working for Dancing Cat Productions (the company of famed pianist George Winston), but only at a business level.
“So even though I’ve been in the music business for a long time, I wasn’t in the Santa Cruz music community at all.”
She grew up on the east end of Long Island, surrounded by water. “The ocean has always been a huge part of my life,” says Gallacher. “I can’t live in the middle. I have to live on a coast.” In fact, she and her now-husband met as ocean lifeguards at the same beach. They grew up in the same town but weren’t really close until they both ended up in California, separately—Jenn went to Mills College and Paul settled in Los Angeles, and they kept in touch.
It was after a stint at college in New Hampshire that left her dissatisfied and freezing cold that Jenn visited Mills and fell in love with the Bay Area. She loved it all: the ocean without winter, the liberal majority, the cities where she wasn’t the only feminist surfer girl. For her senior thesis, she created an online women’s surf magazine, which naturally pointed her to Santa Cruz, where she settled after graduating.
She eventually got a “grown up,” big-paycheck, jet-setting job at a high-tech PR firm in San Francisco, then transferred to LA to be with Paul. But when she left the firm to pursue other projects and the tech bubble began to deflate, her prospects disintegrated, and she found herself without much holding her down in LA. Except Paul. She realized she didn’t even like LA that much.
“I was like, ‘You’re great, this was great, but I’m not living in LA. I gave it a shot, and I’m moving back to Santa Cruz.’”
Gallacher remembers many reasons her heart brought her back North. “We take care of each other,” she says. “That was something I missed when I wasn’t here and I didn’t find in other places, and was really nice to come home to.”
“I have so many moments in Santa Cruz where I’m just looking around at where I am and the things that are happening and the people I’m with, and I think, ‘Could this happen anywhere else?!’ and ‘I am so lucky to be here!’”
Luckily, Paul thought she was worth it and eventually followed her to Santa Cruz. He got a job building guitars at Santa Cruz Guitar Company. As a musician coming from the LA music scene, Paul was surprised at Santa Cruz’s absence of “above-ground” rehearsal studios.
“There certainly are practice spaces in Santa Cruz County that are more underground,” Jenn says, “but there wasn’t one that you could kind of…Google.” The couple mused about starting an accessible rehearsal space. “It was just something we talked about but we never did anything about it.”
Then Paul got laid off. “We thought, ‘Okay, we either do this thing we’ve been talking about for so long or, like, go back to school.’ It was kind of sink or swim time.”
Jenn remembers the process of opening Santa Cruz Rehearsal Studios as a series of signature Santa Cruz serendipities. Jenn and Paul went to the Central Coast Small Business Development Center at Cabrillo, amazed to find this underused free resource, and were paired with business counselor Keith Holtaway (of Downtown Association and Pizza My Heart). He introduced them to Lighthouse Bank for their SBA loan. Holtaway’s office was in NextSpace, so when it was time for web and branding, he hooked the Gallachers up with the co-NextSpacers at Parachute Creative, Davy Reynolds and Ruby Anaya.
Business started slowly. “It took a little time but the word got out that it was working and it was there,” Gallacher says. They mostly relied on word-of-mouth referrals—as they still do. It’s one of the charms of Santa Cruz, she thinks, and one of the reasons their business thrives; they’re a central part of the music community now. “The longer you live here, the better it becomes.”
“Now I can to be in my own community within the music world. I had all these skills that I learned from working at Dancing Cat with George but now I can apply them to people locally.”
She’s happy to keep her job at Dancing Cat because she and Paul know theirs isn’t the kind of business they’re going to cash in on. “It’s kind of part of the starving musician ecosystem but it kind of binds us all together. You don’t do this unless you love it.”
And they really love it. “If I had my way, we would love to just not have to make money,” Jenn says. “That would be the dream: to support the community and not have to ask for money in return.”
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