Jon Leidersdorff, the founder of Lakehouse Music Academy (LHMA) in Asbury Park believes, “Music is the bridge that connects people in Asbury.”

Jon grew up in Asbury Park at a time when music lessons and schools were not widely available.

“I was the person that grew up really wanting music lessons. I was in a band as a kid and then played for decades, though I was largely self-taught.”

Decades later, when Jon began producing in a home studio, a friend suggested he open a studio in Asbury Park.

Jon Leidersdorff Credit: Lakehouse Music Academy

“I thought, if I’m going to do this, then my dream is to create an infrastructure that supports the community. I want to give people what I didn’t have. I want to be of service to people who are underserved. It’s cool to help other people and bring communities together.”

That dream was fully realized at MOGO Presents Asbury Park Live and the Friday Live gigs at North Eats on the boardwalk. The opening act by “The Kings and Queens” included an impassioned cover of Jon Bon Jovi’s lead single released in 2000, “It’s My Life.” This is the tenth performance for band members: Valdano Labord (lead singer and guitarist), Wolfie Letke (bass guitarist & vocals), Thalia Fernando, (Keyboard), and Dylan Nickl (drums and vocals).

These young musicians formed their band under the guidance of LHMA, Get Started Program for kids between the ages of 6-10.

Dylan, aged 9, explains the band’s name, Kings and Queens, “We all like chess, so we agreed on it together.”

Richie Nobrega, musician and teacher on Getting Started says, “Two years ago, they were all in individual bands at LHMA. Each began excelling at an accelerated rate, so we brought them together.”

Wolfie, aged 8, continued, “We are coming up with a logo that is a chessboard with instruments for pieces.”

As young as they are, each member has very clear ideas about where they want to take their music. Dylan of Wall Township says, “I want to go to college for music.” Valdano of Asbury Park, aged 11, is clear that he wants to pursue a career in music after receiving a music scholarship from LHMA and the Hope Charter Academy three years ago. His Aunt Henny says, “Valdano started really singing 3 years ago. He says the best part about being in a band is playing music. His favorite song to sing is “It’s my Life” because sometimes the audience sings along.” Wolfie of Middletown is not so sure. “At the moment,” he says “my focus is singing and dancing, but I want to be a lawyer when I grow up.” Thalia of Eatontown says she loves keyboards, but “I really want to be a scientist.”

The group has not yet recorded a single, but when they do, LHMA will provide them with the opportunities. The Academy has two in-house record labels and studios – Moto Records and Shore Point Records. 

In addition, Monmouth University has a satellite department within the Academy offering courses in the music industry. Guest speakers and teachers visiting the academy include Jay Weinberg of SlipKnot, Max Weinberg (Producer for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band) and Wyclef Jean (Fugees). 

“For us, having a space like this is making things happen. Our studios are open and diverse, creating possibilities for people, giving hope, and building skill sets,” says Jon Leidersdorff.

LAMA is a private music school that provides both subsidized and unsubsidized classes to people of all ages, from early years to senior citizens. The Lakeside Academy, in partnership with Asbury Music Foundation, provides programs at Asbury Hope Academy Charter School as well as the Boys and Girls Club of Asbury Park. Anyone attending classes at the LHMA may use their own guitar or borrow one from their impressive onsite library.

Guitars Galore at Lakehouse Music Academy Credit: Brenda Hamlet

Brenda Hamlet is a journalist covering trends in the media and arts. Brenda lives in Asbury Park and teaches writing at Kean University. Her contributions will focus on the state of the Arts in Asbury Park.

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