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Flea's 1930s music conservatory unveils its stylish new campus

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A Colonial Revival transformed by Barbara Bestor

As of last week, classes are officially in session at the Silverlake Conservatory of Music’s new campus. Founded in 2001 by Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and fellow musicians Keith Barry and Pete Weiss, the non-profit school had long since outgrown its original home, an 1,800-square-foot storefront in Sunset Junction.

The conservatory's new home, an 11,000-square-foot building on Hollywood Boulevard built in 1931, previously served as headquarters for a cosmetics company known as Colonial Dames, and more recently, the Scientology-related rehab group Narconon International. The Colonial Revival-style structure was given a thorough overhaul by architect Barbara Bestor in conjunction with Steve Bing’s Shangri-La Construction firm, both of which donated much of their services for the project.

Bestor conceptualized the space as a village with private and public areas. The front of the building contains the reading/reception lounge and retail shop, where a technicolor array of guitars and ukuleles artfully displayed in wood boxes works to catch the eyes of all passers-by.

In keeping with the architect's trademark style, there is ample use of wood and vibrant pops of color all throughout the space.

Past the reception area is a cluster of eight small soundproofed studios for individual instruction.

Per building and safety code requirements, some of the school's pre-existing building elements needed to be enclosed. To fulfill those requirements, Bestor installed this structure-within-the-structure, which houses the conservatory's restrooms and kitchen. In a signature stylistic flourish, it's wrapped in bold graphic wallpaper with a "Razzle Dazzle" pattern used by the military to camouflage ships during World War I and II.

In the rear half of the building are the communal areas, which include several choir and ensemble lesson studios, a sizable open performance space (the "town square"), and the "Fleazzanine"—an upper-level lounge with comfy couches from which to write music or take in a live concert on the main stage.

Also in the back is a large storage room crowded with all manner of instruments, reserved for use by the school’s scholarship students. According to executive director Jennifer Rey, the conservatory currently has 35 instructors on staff and approximately 700 students enrolled, 35 percent of which attend on full scholarship. With the expanded space, the school expects to be able to accommodate around 1,200 students, and, says Rey, is working toward the goal of having a student body with 50 percent on full scholarship.