The 2008 Great Recession got Bill Woody thinking of his next venture. Having spent many years in the music industry, he came upon a business model that appealed to him very much. After doing his research and studying the idea he decided to take the leap and move to Reno to build and open MRC, the Musician Rehearsal Center.
In 2010, he opened the doors to MRC, a place that would become a staple for musicians in the Reno, Sparks and Lake Tahoe communities.
The Sparks facility’s 50 rehearsal suites are month-to-month rentals for local aspiring musicians. Within about 18 months they were all filled, and since shortly after that there has been a waiting list to get in.
The large performance hall and stage in MRC has gone through many changes over the past 11 years and is now outfitted with a state of the art lighting and sound system. The room, dubbed the Center Stage, is frequently used for shooting music videos produced by Gene Larson’s Advanced Media, as well as a rehearsal space for nationally touring bands scheduled to play at local concert venues, such as Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders.
The television program “The Voice” has even used the Center Stage for rehearsals. Lotus Radio’s KDOT and KOZZ use it to present intimate performances by nationally touring artists for smaller audiences in advance of their Reno shows.
One of the suites has been occupied for some time by Matt Reardon and his band, Black Sunshine. Woody only knew Reardon in passing, but recently had several chats in the hallways with him about the status of MRC. It wasn’t clear to him where Reardon’s inquiries were leading until one day he said he wanted to buy MRC from Woody.
“But the times they are a changin’.”
– Bob Dylan
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, by way of Louisiana, Connecticut, Germany, France, New Zealand and a bunch of other places, please welcome Matt Reardon as the new owner of The Musician Rehearsal Center.
To say that Reardon has been around, is an understatement. By the 1990’s he was a world class professional skier traveling the world on the pro tour until a horrific ski accident in New Zealand nearly ended his pro career. He spent the next three years undergoing nine surgeries and endless physical therapy to save his leg.
What saved him from losing his mind was picking up a guitar and finding music. It turned out he was pretty good at it, too.
During his recuperation Reardon wrote 64 songs, one of which would eventually become a huge hit for him. By 2003 he was living in France and had a hit record in Germany, which transitioned into a very successful music career. In 2007, he moved back to the U.S., to Arizona and continued to work at writing and performing.
The following year, after 351 meetings in Hollywood, he finally got a real record contract at Suburban Noise Records with Sony Red Distribution. That one song previously mentioned was “Once In My Life.” Reardon and his band, Black Sunshine, took it to #1 on Music Choice where it stayed for five weeks. It also made the Top 10 on XM Sirius Radio and Billboard’s Top 40 Rock and Alternative Rock charts where it stayed for 27 weeks.
As if that weren’t enough, he has also moved into the composing and scoring of major motion pictures. Adding this to his repertoire, he says, is what makes it financially possible for him to do the many things he does, including buying MRC.
Riding on the success of that record, his band toured extensively for the next two years. While touring in cities all over the country he found himself rehearsing in countless venues similar to MRC. Reardon said he liked the business model, but found most of them to be “shit holes,” and not one of them had a performance room like MRC.
By 2017, Reardon had become the father of a beautiful baby girl and was living in Reno. Needing a little stability in his life he opened Peavine Taphouse Eats and Beats, a restaurant and performance venue in north Reno.
Meanwhile, the new incarnation of Black Sunshine, which now includes Reno’s Jave Patterson and Mike Reynolds, was rehearsing in the MRC suite occupied by Reardon’s drummer of 30 years, Matt “Toast” Young.
Reardon said the facility was fantastic. It was clean, it was well done, and it had the performance hall he liked. Bill Woody, he said, had done it right.
After a lot of thought and further conversations with his business partners, Reardon made an offer to Woody to buy the Musician Rehearsal Center. This was not a snap decision for Woody to make. His intent had been to keep working with MRC for a few more years, and then possibly hand the business over to his family to run. But after much consideration, a deal was made.
“The only constant in life is change.”
Bill Woody will not be walking off into the sunset at any time soon, though. Woody will still be involved with Reardon and MRC in a consulting capacity. One of the plans for MRC is to replicate it in other cities across the United States. Bill said he plans to be very involved in this process.
The first cities under consideration for additional MRC locations are Boise, Idaho; Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Spokane, Washington.
More important to musicians in Reno/Sparks is what is going to change at the beloved MRC.
First up will be the premiere of “Live at Lou’s” in the Center Stage performance hall on Sept. 25, fulfilling a dream of Reardon’s for many years. This will be a monthly show in the same vein as “Austin City Limits,” and Reardon said he’d love to see it broadcast on PBS channels.
The premiere show will be a free event for friends, family and tenants of MRC, celebrating the transition of ownership, Bill Woody’s achievements there and the future of MRC. The show will feature Reardon’s Black Sunshine and The Greg Golden Band.
Reardon said he also wants to use the series as a fundraiser for a variety of causes and plans to set up a separate nonprofit to support that plan. In addition to raising funds through ticket sales, he said a bar with wine and beer would be open for each show. A portion of the money raised from ticket and drink sales would benefit a different cause each month.
Also coming: the Center Stage performance hall will be expanded to allow for a larger capacity, with seating for 150 or standing room for 400 people. Along with this remodel, the current lounge and entry at the north end of the parking lot will be redone to include a more prominent entry and a larger lounge area, which is where the satellite bar will be placed during shows.
Bill Woody has built an amazing venue for our community. For many of the musicians here it has become a home away from home, a place to create, and a place to bring their dreams to life. It has been a gathering place for people attending the many concerts that have been staged there, and a place for creating music videos under the lights and in front of the cameras of Gene Larson. It has been a place for a wedding, and for too many memorial services for lost comrades.
Reardon said he feels very grateful, thankful and indebted to Woody for giving him the opportunity to take Bill’s vision, expand on it and do it justice.
“I’m learning so much from Bill’s years of experience and I’m honored to work with one of the best,” said Reardon. This is not the end of anything. This is just the beginning of chapter two.
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” – Plato
Nick McCabe is a Reno-based photojournalist and musician. He’s been shooting concerts in the Reno-Tahoe area since 2006 and writing articles and reviews since 2012, as well as doing interviews on occasion. His musical education and playing experience goes back to 1967. He is a founding member of the Reno Tahoe Forte’ Awards, and he still plays music locally for enjoyment. First concert: Jimi Hendrix. Last concert: we’ll see.