The studio’s been around for 24 years and right at the heart of the community, serving musicians and reminding them that a dedication to music is what they’re all about.
I was hard at work on investigating for another story on Hutchison Street late last week, looking for entryway into a particular building that may have been locked down (at press time I still haven’t found a way in but rest assured that I will) when I happened upon a doorway marked “Studio.” I let myself in and still deep in thought, I walked in still wondering about my other story I almost missed the hallway leading into this studio I knew nothing about, but it was as I walked through it that it hit me all at once and I actually said aloud: “What is this place?”
Album covers of days gone by lined the walls to my left and to my right and once I made it to an open space and a counter built into the wall like a cubby hole and saw Alan Toussaint, his kind face smiling and welcoming, I knew I had landed on a story and an epic one at that, and all without meaning to.
Solo Drum Studio—a brief look back
Owner, Alan Toussaint has been into music from a very young age; his father was a musician—a piano player and music teacher. He got Alan into music at a very young age. A picture hangs in the studio that features young Alan blowing furiously into a trumpet on a stage from the distant past … an era when live music certainly played a bigger part in the lives of many, especially when compared to today.
He used to work at Steve’s Music Store—yet another institution in this city, but he decided to move on from that, hoping to garner a little more for himself in the realm of music, the realm he decided to dedicate his life to.
And like many who have passed through the ‘employees only’ door at Steve’s, Alan took to playing gigs, and numerous ones at that. He definitely gained some steam in the music community and experience. He can be considered a multi-instrumentalist, specializing in drums, piano, percussion and the list certainly goes on.
He went back to school, claiming that it was his sister that helped guide him in the right direction; he got a business plan going and it came in the late nineties that the business was open. After seeing that there was a need at the time for a place for drummers all across the city to practice their art, and the business picked up. Slowly at first, but it certainly became the place to practice, and that success continued until 2008 when it suddenly hit a wall, a proverbial wall that affected many businesses, especially the arts.
Alan suggests that technology certainly had a part in that slowing down of the business and with that wave of technology where musicians could buy cheap equipment and essentially record right out of hotel rooms, using drum tracks and linked microphones, business suffered for sure.
And along with that definitely came a generation of musicians that didn’t have the dedication musicians once had. These days, musicians are satisfied with a few singles on Spotify and a video online that perhaps goes viral or gets close to it, and that seems to satisfy them, while musicians of the past and certain ones out there today, seem to have wanted more.
Alan wanted more, and he went for it, with everything he had.
He says the business did pick up again slightly around 2010; then it was a roller-coaster ride from that point on. And of course, then we were all hit with Covid-19.
The effects of the pandemic on Solo Drum Studio
Business was certainly fair in January and before Covid-19 became something that most in the western world had to worry about. Musicians came in and did their thing, taking good advantage of the services that Alan and his employees offered. But when the pandemic hit, all of that changed for the worse.
He had to close and he did so, for two months, and the break he received during that time was definitely not enough of one. Many citizens in Canada got the CERB, but Alan still had to pay 25% of his rent at the studio, and it was still a hefty rent, especially when you consider there was nothing coming in at all—zero clients. He still had to pay his utilities and keep the equipment updated. He also was planning a new direction for the studio, so that when the pandemic passed us all by, he’d be ready to offer his clientele some new and improved services: services that include a recording studio in which artists can record videos to go along with the music they put down. He is also in the process of setting up—along with a partner—a podcast studio, which in these times is pretty high in demand.
As it stands now … in the wake of pandemic
So, as it stands right now, they’re in full swing and ready to serve. Bands, musicians that are in need of a recording studio, a place to practice, or even shoot a video, Alan and Solo Drum Studio are there and where they’ve always been, ready to serve and help you get the sound you’re looking for. He’s more than keeping up with the protocols set up in place in order to prevent Covid-19 … sanitizers, disinfectants, masks, the whole deal … all that’s needed now are the dedicated musicians that are willing to brave this harsh new world in search of completing their life dreams, just like Alan Toussaint did when he was younger and starting out.
Are you out there?