IC musician has rock star past


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The constant screeching of slowing trains echo in the air on the South Side of Iowa City. But Dave Rosazza doesn't mind — he's too busy drowning out the noise with music.

He asked his parents if he could take piano lessons when he was six years old and for a guitar when he was 15. Now, the 41-year-old shares his passion with students in a small, hidden studio at the intersection of Dubuque and Lafayette, teaching them piano, guitar, and vocals.

"I love it — it beats working," he said. "Every half hour, I have a different experience with a different human being."

Jim Hall, a jazz musician and the former studio owner, gave him his first job teaching piano when he was 19, the summer before his freshman year at the University of Iowa.

"I thought, 'Oh boy he's just a high school student,' but I nevertheless wanted to meet with him," Hall said. "He had this charming personality that won me over instantly."

When the business changed hands three years ago, the musician seized the opportunity to branch off on his own with the steady following of students he'd built up over the years.

Rosazza, who sees between seven and 15 students a day ranging in age from four to 85, said that in order to get people interested in what they are learning, he simply asks them what kind of music they like. 

"I believe anyone can play music, I really do," he said.

The quaint room he uses to inspire people has only enough space for a keyboard, desk, and kept secrets.

Though Rosazza said music is always a good emotional outlet, the former psychology major said there have been sessions in which no music is played at all.

"They tell me things that they wouldn't tell their parents, good and bad," he said.

But no matter what, his motto is "having fun."

And the students get to show off the fun that they're having twice a year in recitals at the Riverside Theatre.

"You'll hear everything from Mozart to Metallica," Rosazza said. "We want to make it entertaining."

Fellow local musician and songwriter Nic Arp, who serves at the UI Foundation, said he mostly performed by himself until he met Rosazza. He knew Rosazza was one of the best guitar players in town, and when his daughter started taking lessons at the studio, Arp said, he worked up the nerve to ask the guitarist to play with him.

Though he allows his students to choose their favorite kind of music, Rosazza is hesitant to express his own. He said he likes it all, and he has played in several bands, including Shade of Blue. He's also opened for the Beach Boys, the Monkees, and Koko Taylor.

"He's good enough that he could go to Nashville or LA or New York and make a great living as a studio musician," Arp said. "He can play anything he's asked to play and do it brilliantly, but he loves teaching and Iowa City, so he stays here – lucky for me."

Rosazza, who will perform at RAGBRAI Friday evening, said he loves taking the stage at outdoor festivals of any kind.

"I've never, ever been rained out," he said. "I've always said that with confidence."

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