Posts in Category: about me

Hello! My name is Julie Chambers and I started the Rios Music Project in my garage. My first instrument was the guitar. During my freshman year in high school I learned some basic chords, some finger picking skills, and was able to put them into action that next summer at summer camp playing songs from the Grateful Dead album “Skeletons From The Closet”. I had so much fun singing with my friends that I learned the whole album on my own, while slowly moving on to other artists such as Graham Nash, Paul Simon, and John Lennon.

My Sophomore year in high school, there was an opening for a bass player in the lowest level of our music program. The band director, Mr. Mark Peabody,  was a bass player himself and offered to teach me the basics if I was interested. I jumped in with two feet, absorbing the bass sounds and all of the lessons as fast as I could. I soon found myself playing in not only the school jazz band, concert band, and “pep” band but in some outside  ska, reggae, pop, and folk bands. If I wasn’t busy learning new bass lines, I was out listing to jazz musicians perform at Yoshi’s in Oakland, or deciphering Miles Davis Sketches of Spain on my car stereo. I was all in.

At the age of 17 one of the bands I was playing with asked me to join them in Hollywood. We played a string of shows at famous venues such as The Roxy and the Viper Room. I was too young to actually go into the bar so I was restricted to the stage and back stage loading area when I wasn’t actually performing.  After one performance, one of the bouncers..a large soulful looking black man told me with much sincerity, that I should, no matter what,  “keep on playin”.

When I got back from playing the Hollywood strip, I was so inspired that I went out seeking even more. I was lucky to be living in the same hometown as many classic rock superstars. Soon after my return from the road, I began working after school everyday as an intern for our San Rafael local rock legend, Carlos Santana. Working with Santana and the Santana Band was an amazingly rich experience. I got to sit beside Carlos’s personal sound engineer for hours at at a time while the band rehearsed. I learned from some of the best artists in the field and took that knowledge back to my personal playing and performing. The band members got to know me and admired my persistence. After each rehearsal I was allowed into their practice space to play around on all of their instruments. From bass to guitar to timbales, I explored the creative Santana Band artistic atmosphere.

On my way out of town and on to college,  Santana’s bass player- Benny Rietveld (Eh hem.. who previously had played with Prince and Miles Davis) asked me what kind of bass guitar I was bringing with me to college. I told him that until then I had been playing the high school’s American Fender jazz bass and didn’t have an instrument of my own. He told me not to worry, that he would order me one from his private bass crafter/builder. I went home from that visit with one of the worlds best musicians with a huge happy grin, only to return the next day to find out that the Santana band was gone, they had left for their European tour.

I really appreciated the gesture from Benny, but didn’t expect him to follow through with his offer. I knew how busy he would be on the road and that he probably only made the offer in passing. I must have read too deeply into it right? Wrong. About a week later I received a phone call from the bass maker. He asked me a string a questions about my playing style, performance location etc. About a week or so after that, I received in the mail a giant box with my hand crafted bass in it.

The instrument was lightweight, made for my smaller female frame.  It had a beautiful pearl finish and a few extra frets so I could extend my creativity a bit wider than most. I loved it.

Once I hit the college atmosphere in Santa Barbara, I quickly realized how much more I knew than most other musicians my age and I began teaching bass lessons in my dorm room. Some students took lessons just to see if I really had chops, others just wanted to learn to be cool. Either way, I repeatedly impressed my peers to the point where I was asked to join a local band that would eventually become the pop/rock  radio band Sugar Cult. I tried, and after realizing that I couldn’t in good faith commit to touring California with them in their band van, I declined. To this day, however, I have a deep respect for their music and what they brought to the pop scene in the 90’s.

At a casual party on a Saturday night I found myself jamming with a few friends in a garage near the beautiful coastal waters of Santa Barbara. I met two friendly musicians and we struck a nice “chord”. Soon thereafter we  formed a band called One Fine Day and proceeded to play almost every living room party and pizza place in town for three years. We has so much fun! My band-mates, however, were a few years older than me and when they graduated and I had a few more years to go, the band dissolved. I finished my degree in Ethno Musicology at UCSB and studied instruments from every corner of the world, only to find how similar they all are. Mostly in the joy they bring to us as a cultural group and as emotional, sentimental beings

I wasn’t a free agent for long, I was quickly introduced to a group of highly talented individuals including my now husband Jaime . We wrote songs, played shows and had lots of good times. When we had a little down time traveled though Europe taking in the sights and sounds. On our return, we were blessed with a pregnancy and decided to tie the knot. Nine months later we had Annabelle and I decided my gigging days were on hiatus, at best. I took up the cello and found a passion I never knew I had. The challenge of playing a fretless instrument with a bow was daunting but exciting at the same time and it rekindled my passion for learning musical instruments.

As a new mom to be, I dove into the art of listening. I listened to my unborn child’s heartbeat, and danced with my pregnant belly to the sounds of Jimmy Cliff and Cat Stevens. My nerves were soothed by the familiar rhythms as they all took on a new meaning. I was happier than I ever new was possible.

Anyone who has had kids can relate to this: after having babies 1 and 2 pretty much everything you did for work/fun/relaxation/hobby goes on hold and you focus mainly on keeping the family fed and bathed. This was my story for about 7 years until Annabelle started picking up instruments, singing songs and dancing all around the house. I knew right away that I had my first official student of the Rios Music Project.

Together as a family we all learn, grow, teach and experience music to it’s fullest. I find more joy in teaching children how to play music than I think I could ever experience in any other profession. I put my heart and soul into my lessons. In return, my students reaffirm to me the joy of learning at every stage. I now happily teach drums, guitar, bass, vocals, songwriting and performance.