Allegro Music Center
Park Ridge Advocate Features Allegro Music Center
A feature story by Jennifer Johnson

PARK RIDGE — Future rock stars, violin virtuosos and even the next “American Idol” finalist just might be getting their start in Park Ridge.

Since 2005, Allegro Music Center has been helping young musicians and vocalists hone their craft, whether it involves mastering a six-string or hitting the high notes.

And as manager and instructor, Jared Skiba has been right there to follow their progress.

Today Skiba, a Park Ridge native, has a new role at Allegro: owner. Skiba officially took over the business late last year and the Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce is planning a ceremonial ribbon cutting on Feb. 20 to mark this new chapter.

“It was time,” Skiba said when asked why he expressed an interest in ownership. “I’d been manager for seven years. It was almost like, either I move up or I move on. I just was ready for something more.”

Allegro, located at 800 W. Devon Ave., offers private lessons in guitar, piano/keyboard, drums and other percussion, violin, flute, saxophone, clarinet, voice and even the ukulele.

“The main part of the business is the lesson program,” Skiba explained.

In recent years the number of students signing up for vocal lessons has skyrocketed, Skiba noted, likely the result of an influx of popular reality singing shows like “American Idol” and “The Voice.”

The shop is also stocked with guitars, amps, instructional books, sheet music, tambourines and a variety of accessories, including guitar straps, picks and strings. During the Christmas season, shoppers could buy ornaments made to look like guitars and violins.

The son of a musical theater actress, music has been part of Skiba’s life since he was a child.

“I don’t remember a time not being able to read music,” he said.

Skiba started out studying piano and saxophone which eventually led to learning the guitar. At Maine South High School, he studied music theory and performed with the school’s jazz band, choir and marching and concert bands before graduating in 1999.

After earning degrees in music and business administration at Augustana College, Skiba returned to Park Ridge, joined a band (which one year performed at the Chicago leg of the popular punk rock festival, Warped Tour) and started giving lessons at J Guitar, once located in Park Ridge’s Summit Mall. When J Guitar closed and Allegro Music Center opened across town, Skiba joined the shop as manager.

Since the store opened, the number of students has been growing steadily, Skiba said, and there are currently 288 private lessons offered.

Students range in age from three to 82.

“Adults aren’t the largest part of our student base, but we are getting more and more adults in, which is awesome,” Skiba said.

To give students the experience of performing in groups and before an audience, Skiba leads a one-week summer program called Rock Star University. He has also taken over the popular Park Ridge battle-of-the-bands competition known as Bobbapalooza, named for its founder, Bob Anderson of South Park Church.

As part of his future plans for Allegro, Skiba hopes to expand the number of ensemble and live performance opportunities he offers students.

“It’s great to have the kids in the lesson rooms, but the whole point of playing an instrument is to share it,” he said. “We’ve always offered recitals seasonally throughout the year and those are really fun, too, but a lot of times it’s students performing solo or duets with a teacher. I’m hoping to have more groups together.”

Skiba’s other long-term goal includes getting students involved in recording their own music using computer software and maybe even getting them into a professional recording studio.

As for his own music career, Skiba hopes to one day soon return to his first love.

“Once I get the ropes of running the business and get it running more smoothly with me at the helm, I’ll hopefully pick my guitar back up and play again,” he said.