With over 3 million units sold/courses taught to date, the Rock House Method is the definitive music instruction system in the world. Founded in 1986 by musician/entrepreneur John McCarthy, the Rock House catalog contains more than 100 titles that expertly provide in-depth, easy-to-follow instruction for every level of player. Named “Best Tools for Schools” by Musical Merchandise Review (MMR), The Rock House Method Curriculum was awarded “Best Instructional Product of the Year” by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
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Chris Remmers: We’re going to talk a little bit about the places you have seen, music experiences along the way and how that has molded you into who you are today. Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about where you’re from?
John McCarthy: I’m from West Haven, Connecticut, born and raised there. It’s actually where my company is based out of. I just feel like it’s an extremely beautiful part of the country and I really enjoyed growing up here.
CR: Yes, it’s beautiful. We’re right here in New Jersey, so fairly close to you. What would you recommend to someone to do if they were visiting Connecticut or West Haven for the first time? Touch on your company a some more too.
JM: West Haven is pretty close to New Haven. People don’t generally think of this area as a beach area, because of the whole jersey shore stigma on the east coast. But, with that said, West Haven has a very beautiful stretch of beach in the summer – winter turns into a different story. Definitely similar to New Jersey, right? As for the music, there’s actually an extensive music community in the area, as well. The music school I run up here helps the kids get on stage, get acclimated to performing.
CR: That sounds fantastic. I’m sure the kids love to learn how to rock out. Do you guys ever have any concerts on the beach, or anything of that nature for the kids?
JM: Yes, we actually run a concert just about every summer called WimBash. We also have a festival where we get a lot of local bands to come out and play. We help raise money for music programs in the city areas for the boys and girls. There has been a lot of talent like David Jones, Billy Joel’s band came up and the guys from the Living Colour came to play. All of them have been very successful in helping us raise money for the kids. It always turns into a large event on the beach and everyone has a really good time. We look forward to it every year.
CR: That sounds incredible to be working with such talent, and yet at the same time be helping young musicians in the city and around Connecticut. What would you say influenced you the most to get into music?
JM: I started when I was very young. I started playing the guitar when I was around five years old. I was also the youngest of five kids and everyone had a bunch of really cool albums. They had really a good taste in music that helped me fall in love. So, I started teaching guitar at 12, at 15 I opened up my own music school and by 21 I released my first videos on how to play guitar under the Rock House name in the late 80’s. We went from VHS videos to internet support, and it was just a really cool thing to be able to connect with so many people.
Now, of course today with the advancement of technology, we are able to reach a lot more people and get a lot more people involved in the music community. We have been able to work with so many manufacturers, creating custom programs for them that they’re able to put into their guitar packs. We used to make them DVD’s that would come with the guitar straps and various equipment, but when the DVD world started to die a few years ago, we started streaming online. It’s always about keeping up to date with the latest platform and the best way you’re going to be able to get your music or work out there. We try to make everything fun and exciting.
CR: That is incredible, and I couldn’t agree with you more. As a company, if you do not stay up to date with the various technology platforms you have a chance of getting left in the dust. Where would you say are the top three places you have had the pleasure of visiting because of music?
JM: Wow, this is a tough one. Fortunately, I have had the pleasure of going to a lot of different places, but the first place that comes to mind is defiantly Beijing, China. That was a really cool experience. I got a chance to work with this company in China and they asked if I would meet with some of the music teachers from Beijing. I thought they were going to ask me simple questions, but they ended up asking me questions like, “Mr. McCarthy, how do we get funk,” or, “Mr. McCarthy what is groove? How do we get groovy?”
It was a lot of fun to talk about, but I think they have been suppressed musically for so many years and they couldn’t listen to certain types of music. They knew how to play technically, but the groove of a funk player, of jazz player was just not in them, because they never had a chance to hear anything like it. Stemming out of China, it’s always fun to go to the trade shows in northern California. It’s awesome to see a bunch of different musicians sponsoring different products. It’s really cool to see different bands and musicians jamming together out of the blue too. It’s just really exciting stuff.
CR: That sounds like one heck of a time. So, to switch this up for you, when you’re going on vacation what is the first thing you are looking to do? Are you looking to find a beach, explore a city or hike in the mountains? What’s sort of your forte?
JM: I am 100 percent a beach guy. I love the beach with the hot weather. I guess you could say I’m living in the wrong part of the country. I just love going to Saint Thomas and Saint Martin. On that trip to china we ended up stopping in Southern Thailand. That was just crazy. The beaches, weather and elephant tours in the jungle – everything about it was just absolutely beautiful.
CR: Wow, that sounds incredible. Have you ever been to a place that gave you a bit of a culture shock you weren’t ready for or expecting?
JM: I think when I went to Germany that was the biggest culture shock I had experienced. I remember going into a five-star restaurant and there were still people chain smoking. I understand it is their culture, so I dealt with it. Everyone was so friendly. I am not sure what I ate, but the food was amazing. It was just an interesting experience to be going back in time almost, where people smoked wherever they wanted, indoors or outdoors, it was just crazy to experience again.
CR: I can imagine. To wrap this up for you, what are three places you haven’t been to? Why do those places stand out and make you want to go?
JM: I’d say the top three places I would like to still visit would be Australia and New Zealand, for the beaches and surrounding scenery. I think it would be awesome to go over there to see kangaroos and other wildlife that isn’t found anywhere else in the world too. The Greek Islands are also a place I would like to visit. I’ve heard such good things about the people, beaches and nightlife there. Lastly, I’d say Hawaii because of the various islands, different beaches and unique pieces of nature there. I just love the beaches and love looking at beautiful things.