• Downtown music school to close by year's end
Posted: 12/27/2011 01:00:29 AM PST

For most it's a cliché, figuratively meaning to chuck it all and start over, but for Vallejo musician, music teacher and business owner Ariane Cap, who literally has run off and joined the circus, it's actually a new adventure.

Cap signed a two-year contract with Cirque du Soleil as a bassist for a new touring show so her downtown music school, StepUp Music, will close by year's end, she said. The as-yet unnamed woman-centered show, has an all-female band and predominately female cast, she said. Cap said that though she's excited about the new gig, there's a down side.

"It's the hardest thing I've ever done, (closing the school), and at first I tried very hard to keep it open, but I realized it just couldn't be done," Cap said. "But our most popular classes will continue at the GVRD and StepUp will remain a (web-based) music teacher referral service."

Cap, an Austria native who opened StepUp in Vallejo in November 2009, remains its director, she said. The phone number (707) 647-3050, and web address stay the same, she added.

Cap said she tossed her hat in the ring for the new gig, almost on a lark, after hearing from her friend, Vallejo native and bassist Derek Jones that there was an opening.

Many in the city's music scene expressed regret at the loss of the school.

Piano teacher Rhonda Lucile Hicks said the city is losing a source of positive energy, at least for two years. Hicks joined the teaching staff at StepUp in June and is now
teaching in her Benicia home.

"She tried really hard to keep it open, running it from the road, but it became clear that it couldn't be done," Hicks said. "It's a total bummer for me. Do you have any idea how much it costs to move two pianos?"

But the bigger issue is the loss to the city, Hicks said.

"It breaks my heart," she said. "She put so much into making StepUp a special place. She wanted to make a contribution to downtown Vallejo, and she did."

Hicks is not alone in her feelings.

Saying he's "really impressed" by what Cap accomplished in just two years, Vallejo saxophonist Bryan Girard said StepUp's closure "will be a real loss to the community. I'll always be grateful to Arianne for allowing (the Vallejo Jazz Society) to use her facility and supporting our efforts to bring jazz to Vallejo."

Jazz guitarist Leo Cavanagh agreed, saying he admires "anyone who tries to run a business, and I totally understand that Arianne can't be in Montreal and run StepUp at the same time.

"She's a great person and a fine musician who was really offering something of great value to music students," he said. "Hopefully other people with her same vision and ability can fill the void left by the closing of StepUp Music."

Cap and her office coordinator Jeff Charles said they don't know what will happen next with the Sonoma Boulevard storefront.

"We're in the process of clearing it out, taking down signs, and all that stuff," Charles said. "We're clearing the furniture out, all that kind of stuff, and by the end of next week it will be basically closed."

But, Cap said she and her husband, composer Wolfgang Wein, are keeping their home base in Vallejo and not closing the door of possibility entirely.

"We have been happy in Vallejo and we have strong ties to the city and a deep love," Cap said. "Anything can happen."

Contact staff writer Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at (707) 553-6824 or rzrihen@timesheraldonline.com.
By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen/