Zach Galindo, founder and owner of Lake Highlands School of Music

Before big name headliners take the main stage at Oktoberfest Dallas October 1st to thrill 8,000 rockin’ fans, Run for Cover will warm up the crowd. Run for Cover is the student band from Lake Highlands School of Music (LHSM), where owner Zach Galindo, a graduate of Lake Highlands High School, says the chance to perform for live audiences is what his students work for all year.

“Music is the best motivator, and a taste of the stage is everything. When you’re on stage with people watching, nothing can match the rush you get. This is the pinnacle of what we want to create – real stages, real sound equipment, real audiences. That’s the thing that cannot be replicated.”

Many of the kids who earned a spot in Run for Cover began taking lessons with Galindo and his team of dedicated teachers before the studio moved from their rough warehouse space on Plano Road into their new digs near Alamo Drafthouse. Classes fill nine rooms, including guitar labs, recording studios and rehearsal spaces. Galindo admits his teen and preteen students sometimes get nervous before they take the stage. Heck, even Rihanna, who recently signed on to play at the Super Bowl, famously suffers from stage fright.

“These kids are pretty savvy, though,” he says. “Most of them are no stranger to the stage, so they’re ready.”

Galindo says seven is the ideal age to begin piano lessons, though he’s had focused five- and six-year-olds who did very well. Nine is the golden age to take up the guitar. Some parents, though, wait for a sign from the child.

“If they’re singing along to music and it doesn’t sound awful,” Galindo jokes, “that’s a good indicator. If they’re tapping out rhythms and it sounds coherent, they have an ear. There are varying levels of natural ability when it comes to music, much like athletics. Some of us can run superfast, others cannot. Athletics is still a wonderful activity for everyone, and that’s how music is, too.”

Galindo works to keep lessons fun for young students, and he helps them find and enjoy the dividends.

“Music lessons are a goal-oriented process, and performing is the best reward,” he says. End-of-semester recitals foster a big sense of accomplishment, but students experience payoffs at the end of every class.

“What’s most enjoyable to me as a teacher is the five to ten minutes we play together at the end of the lesson. It’s a jam session. It’s a performance in itself. Playing together in groups is a special experience. It’s different from solitarily creating art or being in the cast of a play. It’s immediate. We’ve all experienced a time when we were feeling down and we heard a song, and it was enough to perk us up. There’s nothing quite like it.”

Galindo has advice for parents who seek to foster a love of music in their young charges.

“Create a dedicated listening time instead of watching television. Make listening to music a family activity. I ask kids today who their favorite band is or what their favorite song is, and they don’t know. When I was a kid I listened to entire albums by an artist, but kids today consume music differently. Their catalog of music is just an app.”

Galindo says his family would listen to the car radio and play “Name That Song” on family road trips. Today’s family might set out listening to five different playlists on five sets of headphones, he says.

“Each person has their own algorithm to determine what they’ll like, so they may not be exposed to other artistic genres. Apps curate for us. It’s wonderful, it’s just different.”

Last May, Galindo opened Oak Cliff School of Music, a collaboration with Arts Mission Oak Cliff. AMOC, housed in a repurposed historic church, offers rehearsal and performance space to dance, theater and other arts organizations. Galindo has one working studio there with about 20 students, but he hopes the Oak Cliff studio will eventually grow to host about 200 kids, as LHSM does.

Galindo’s latest passion is serving on the board of Swan Strings, a nonprofit providing free music education and sound therapy services to students with limited resources. Professional musicians fan out to neighborhoods across Dallas teaching guitar, voice, songwriting and ukulele, and one class per week is offered free of charge at LHSM.

“Swan Strings, started by Jess Garland, is the most dynamic nonprofit in Dallas when it comes to music education,” Galindo gushes. “I think Swan Strings should be in every neighborhood – all they need is the space and the funding.”

Lake Highlands School of Music is at 6760 Abrams Road, Suite 205.

Swan Strings provides free music education and sound therapy.