Gig Harbor will have a new spot for professional and student musicians to perform as Regan’s Rock School takes over at the former theater at the Burton Park Building off state Route 16.
“This has been a long time in the works,” owner Reagan Balman said. “I have been looking for a place to expand my music school with the ability for students to perform live more often in an indoor venue. There is also a need for local musicians to play.
“There isn’t anywhere in the Harbor that is a non-alcoholic, family-oriented place dedicated to performance,” he said. “Now there is that place.”
Balman said his rock school will be called “The Gig Spot.”
A tip from a story in the Gateway this summer about the availability of the 96-seat theater space prompted Balman to call to Steven Jooste, the real estate representative for owner Diane Dunham. The theater building had been vacant for almost three years, and Jooste was looking for a tenant.
“Diane Dunham is happy to find a tenant with performance arts being able to be continued in the building to carry on tradition,” Jooste said.
Balman signed the lease Aug. 15 and was starting acoustic improvements to get the theater space equipped for concerts the next day. He hopes to have the space properly outfitted and running by the first week of September.
Balman, a longtime Gig Harbor resident, has been giving music lessons since 1995.
“My sisters used to take dance lessons her from former dance teacher Kathy McGilliard,” he said. “This facility has been part of the Gig Harbor performing arts scene for over 30 years. I sat outside and listened to the Beatles while I waited for them to be finish. Now I teach students how to play the Beatles.”
Balman had been holding backyard concerts and performing at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup once a year, but he said the new venue will offer a better ability to have spotlight concerts year-round.
“We provide a unique, vocational setting that provides real-world music industry experience,” he said.
Part of the experience he offers is a live-performance aspect to create an environment that replicates the music industry.
“Students can record at our studio, then are encouraged to promote themselves to family and friends by holding a concert,” Balman said. “At the new facility, students can perform a mini concert of three to five songs along with one or two other students. They can sell their CDs and generate a small amount of money through a minimal entrance fee, just like a professional.”
Balmam currently has more than 40 students who are taking guitar and vocal lessons, with popular rock music being the focus, but anything a student wants to learn is an option, he said. Balman's specialty is Reggae music. Another full-time employee teaches the drums.
Students range from ages 4 to 78, with all ability levels.
One of Balman's first students still performs in a band. He also has a second generation started with a 4-year-old daughter of a former student taking lessons.
“The venue will be also open to the public for other uses to create revenue to keep it going,” he said. “Our plan is to lease to churches, dance and piano recitals, and theater performances. We’ll need support from the community to make it work.”
Balman hopes to expand to the upstairs at the former theater in the future, because they are outgrowing the current recording studio.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to carry on the performing arts tradition for the community in this spot,” he said.