Rehearsal Space Blues

Decreasing amounts 
of attainable rehearsal space leaves young musicians castaway from their own city

Luka Vasic // Contributor

As the price of property and rental rates in Greater Vancouver skyrockets, local businesses have found themselves having to make a choice: sink or swim. This is no exception to local rehearsal spaces like the Vancouver Rockspace and Sanctuary Studios, which shut down this past September.

What has been an ongoing issue for local professionals has also affected the city’s young musicians and students. There are already many challenges for musicians trying to make it in the industry, and the lack of space for rehearsals and individual practice has become a growing concern in this city.

For Capilano University music students, the worry of finding space to rehearse is not as urgent as they have the luxury of accessing the school’s practice rooms, and classrooms that are large enough to accommodate rehearsal needs. These spaces are open to them Monday through Saturday. They also have access to the school’s music storage, which has a variety of instruments that they can rent out free of charge.

However, this becomes a problem for students more involved in bands outside of school. While students may use the school’s facilities to work on their own projects, it is understandably discouraged to bring non-student musicians on campus. This creates the need to find a space off-campus, which becomes a challenge.

“Finding space can be sort of all over the place. Affordable space at preferred times is definitely difficult,” said Aidan Goheen, Capilano Jazz student, and leader of Big Madge, a local Ska band full of CapU students. “Having a good-sized room with good acoustics is pretty important when you have a seven-piece band with horns.”

This is a common problem among students in the Capilano Jazz program, and is especially a concern for alumni, who after completing their degrees suddenly find themselves without access to the facilities the University had once provided them with.

Most will say that they avoid playing in rentable rehearsal spaces, as many of them are too expensive, difficult to book with ideal times and cannot accommodate the larger bands. Therefore, many bands will opt to rehearse at a privately-owned space or a basement if they have the access, and some will rehearse in churches or school band rooms if they are available for such activities.

The reason for the diminishing amount of rehearsal space in this city could be blamed on Vancouver’s real estate market, which continues to get pricier each year. “Everyone’s rent is getting too out of hand,” said Paul Alexander, owner of Pandora’s Box Rehearsal Studios, one of the go-to rehearsal spaces for young musicians.

Alexander, who has had previous experience running a campground, knew that the best way for a business of this sorts to thrive was to “provide a better product.” Recognizing that other businesses were failing due to rent and lease problems, Pandora’s Box created for themselves a chance to thrive from the get-go. The business signed a 10-year lease, giving itself the opportunity to build a better business without worrying about the skyrocketing prices and complications of property agreements.

Finding the right location, in a neighborhood that didn’t mind the noise, Pandora’s Box has been able to create a sense of community with its customers. “Half our lockout rooms are with people that have been renting since we started.” This, and the gear provided are available for rent, has made Pandora’s Box a popular option for younger musicians and students, in a city with less and less to choose from.

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