Locked out of regular gigs, Valley musicians are becoming music teachers

Emily Sully practices safe distancing.
Heather Hyte/Courtesy

Emily Sully made most of her money playing in bands on the Strip—but that was before the pandemic.

Her main band, Empire Records, would play all over town, and she'd sub in popular cover bands, like Zowie Bowie and Velvet Elvis, when they performed Downtown and on the Strip at casinos like the Paris and New York-New York. “That’s my main bread and butter, playing those gigs,” she says.

A little over a year ago, Sully quit her job teaching drums at a local music school to pursue gigging full time, though she kept a few private students and taught out of her home studio.

With no clear end in sight to this pandemic lockdown, Sully has turned to drumming, not just for her mental health, but to supplement her income, too.

“I’ve been not working for at least a month and I'm trying to figure out, trying to navigate the unemployment system. My landlord decided to move home three years early, so I’m trying to find a place to live,” she says. “To stay sane, I’ll play drums at home. It’s still my favorite thing, my favorite outlet.”

Sully’s student roster is smaller than it used to be, but the drummer says she has a handful of students that she teaches via FaceTime.

“I thought maybe some of the lesson’s essence would get lost, but it’s actually really cool,” she says. “It goes pretty fluidly and I communicate everything I want to.”

The longer the city remains in quarantine, Sully says she plans on taking more clients. Inquiring students can contact Sully at [email protected] or on Instagram at @morningview182.

Right now, a typical lesson consists of a warm up—“ drums are very physical instrument, you have to get your muscles loose, almost like you’re going to exercise,” she says—followed by learning to play a song of the students’ choice.

Green Day and Led Zeppelin, Sully says, are especially popular.

“I love John Bonham, so I always try to teach cool drum licks,” she says. “I’m definitely a rocker. I just like to hit things hard, and I love to show people how to do that, especially right now.”

Another local musician, Sonia Seelinger (aka Sonia Barcelona), has used her time in quarantine to work on guitar tutorials.

Seelinger posted her first guitar lesson on April 10 on Facebook and at soniabarcelona.com, with plans for more in the works.

“I actually have been wanting to do these for some time, she says. “Many people have asked me how to just begin doing the things that I do. Now that we’re all quarantined there’s a lot of time to do that.”

Seelinger, who has been playing guitar for the past eight years, says making a tutorial was a way of going back to her roots.

“For me, everything is self-taught, and it was on YouTube. YouTube is saturated with amazing tutorials, so as long as you’re willing to learn, you’ll find whatever you need.”

Future tutorials by Seelinger may include more guitar lessons, ukulele lessons and an introduction to loop effect pedals, as well as beginner photography lessons.

“If people are learning how to create, that’s amazing,” Seelinger says. “We might end up seeing an influx of artists after quarantine.”

Photo of Leslie Ventura

Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

Get more Leslie Ventura
  • Eighty of the 83 original acts remain on the bill, including headliners Danzig, Mercyful Fate and Emperor.

  • Local singers like Cali Tucker and Lisa Marie Smith are back at casino lounge, bar and restaurant spaces.

  • Bassist Satomi Matsuzaki and drummer Greg Saunier sing about a dystopian world—oh wait, that’s our actual, broken reality.

  • Get More Music Stories
Edit Story Top of Story