Music has been the centerpiece of Tina Rose’s life for as long as she can remember.
“I was musical as soon as I could make a sound,” she recalls.
As a young girl she sang at every opportunity, and then began singing professionally just after high school. Her performing career took her to New York, Arizona, England and dozens of places in between.
She was a musical nomad.
Then, five years ago, she returned to San Diego County (where she had gone to high school) to help care for a sister in Santee who was dying of cancer.
It was then that her sister planted the seed of an idea.
“She said, ‘You should start a business,’ ” says Rose. “I said, ‘No, no, no. Then I wouldn’t be able to move all the time.’ ” But her sister pressed her, saying it would be a good thing.
“So here I am,” says Rose.
Four years ago, she opened Desert Rose Studios and Production Company in Santee. After a lifetime of being a freelance musician, a traveling voice for hire, she found herself putting down roots, opening up a studio, fixing it up and welcoming music students.
It was something she never intended to do, and she still admits she’s a bit mystified about her transformation from performer to businesswoman and all that comes with it.
Yet she says from the first day she opened her doors, the studio has been a blessing. Not the kind of blessing that pays off in fame or fortune, but the kind that just feels right.
“The truth is … there’s just something blessed here,” she says, sitting in her studio on a quiet weekday afternoon while wearing a colorful holiday tie and awaiting her next student. “Always has been, ever since the start… It’s a good place. The building, the room here, this particular room. There’s been so many blessings.”
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It started with a violin.
At Desert Rose, students can come to take lessons of all sorts, from voice, to piano, to guitar and violin. So when the studio opened, Rose bought an inexpensive violin and displayed it in a case.
Almost immediately, a woman came in, saw the violin and bought it.
“She looked like she needed it,” says Rose.
Later, a guitar on display – “the most ugly guitar I’ve seen in my whole life,” she says, laughing – became the object of desire of a man and his son. After they said they just had to have it, Rose says she simply gave it to them.
Since then, she says, there have been other examples. People find instruments they need, lessons they want or a connection they were looking for at the studio.
“I’m finding out that there are instruments in here that are finding their owners,” she says. “They wait for their owners. It’s happened with lots of stuff in here. The right person comes, the instrument is there.”
She’s felt the same way with students, who range from young children to adults.
Rose owns and operates the studio and teaches voice and some instruments, but there are other teachers at the studio who teach violin and viola, reed instruments, drums, advanced guitar and advanced piano.
In the four years of operating Desert Rose, she says it now feels like its own community to her, with students and teachers and parents connected. She’s able to take joy from sharing what she knows and seeing students improve.
It’s all part of that blessed feeling.
When she’s asked to describe her favorite part about operating Desert Rose, she pauses and then answers slowly, carefully choosing her words.
“It’s kind of like looking at a bouquet of flowers,” she says. “All the flowers are the choices. But if they all came down to only one stem, that would be called sharing.”
She has sung opera, jazz, pop tunes and stage musicals. She’s been on stage, performed in churches and taught in college. Being able to give back to others now “is one of the biggest miracles of the place,” she says. “I do love it.”
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As the studio’s owner, Rose does whatever is necessary.
She gives lessons, pays the bills, finds other teachers and organizes productions, recitals and even open-mic nights. With help, she built the stage in the main studio, had a music room put in and designed the interior of the business. She also teaches art and sewing classes at Desert Rose, and has helped people refine their public speaking talents.
And, drivers on Carlton Hills Boulevard will even sometimes see her on the sidewalk in front of Carlton Oaks Plaza – where her studio is located -- waving a large, hand-held sign for “Desert Rose Studios music lessons,” as she was on one recent afternoon.
She still sings professionally whenever she gets the chance, but these days her focus is on the studio.
Though there are headaches that come with operating a business, the core mission – sharing her musical passion – is what drives her.
After all, it’s kept her in one spot for a while. The musical nomad has found a home in Santee.
“I love the people that come in here,” she says. “I love the teachers, the ones that teach the other instruments. I can’t think of anyone who takes lessons here I don’t like. I love them. I don’t know how you can teach them music and not love them. I just don’t know how.”
Have you been to Desert Rose Studios? Let us know what you think in the comments.