ORLANDO, Fla. - Welders, carpenters, electricians, and plumbers can make good salaries, averaging around $60,000 a year. But there’s a new trade in town to consider.
El Camino, on Edgewater Drive in Orlando, is a new school of music, repair, and technology. Now, owner John Thiesen is ramping up something called “Touring Tech Development.”
“We’re the only school in America that has a program like this,” he explains. “Our goal is that you could graduate high school, take our program, and within 12 weeks of graduating, see the world on a major tour.”
An 8-week intensive program that molds elite roadies for major record label acts.
“It’s a person who maintains the guitarists’ instruments -- their guitars, amplifiers, and pedals. They also keep them going from show to show to show,” he says. “These are people relied on day in and day out. Not only do they pull in a nice salary, but they have a vested interest in getting that tour or that artist to the next spot. If they’re doing 300 dates a year, they want to be the backbone of that tour and help that artist shine.”
Thiesen found the need for his program by simply following the money.
“Tours are the only way bands are making money, going from city to city as they were doing it 50 years ago. So tours are on the rise where trained personnel to help the tour support is on the decline. Many people from the last generation are retiring and getting older, and they’ve not been good stewards of passing this information along to the next generation. Which is where El Camino school comes in.”
Major music stars are known for big hauls. Bruce Springsteen, for example, would have up to 20 guitars available any given night, with both vintage and modern gear.
"Buy the time Bruce Springsteen finishes the solo for ‘Thunder Road,’ the tech has to figure out what’s going on, switch it out, re-solder it, get it back up and running as soon as possible.”
So how much money can someone make restringing, cabling, and wiring guitars? What kind of dough does a mechanic for music gear make?
“Many roadies make $50,000 a year or more, whereas a touring guitar tech makes upwards of six figures. So to get on a major label tour, you get to see the world for free and make a great living doing it.”
Six figures! And Thiesen says El Camino's $8,000, eight-week touring tech development course starting mid-2020, will help with job placement as well.
"Since our courses are only limited to eight students per eight-week program, it’s a small group, so we’re not trying to oversaturate the market. We’re trying to deliver to the market at the same rate they’re able to take it in.”