An auditorium full of music students at Las Vegas Academy sat in awe as band members from legendary group Journey answered their questions about music, life and keys to success Wednesday afternoon in downtown Las Vegas.
Over 150 students, from freshmen to seniors, at the popular arts school grilled keyboardist Jonathan Cain and bass guitarist Ross Valory during an 45-minute Q & A session before singing along to a performance of “Don’t Stop Believin'.”
“There’s great music out there,” Cain said as the students applauded and cheered. “You’ve just got to dig deeper.”
Cain, who joined Journey in 1980 and last month was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Valory and three other current band members, said music helped saved him from depression as a kid following a fire at his elementary school in central Chicago. The infamous December 1958 blaze at Our Lady of the Angels School killed 92 students, including several of Cain’s friends and classmates.
Cain, who started playing the accordion to beat depression, went on to record a solo album before briefly joining British group The Babys, and then Journey. He credited his father for serving as his “life coach” and encouraged aspiring Las Vegas Academy musicians to seek similar mentors to help them stay focused.
“My dad taught me discipline and to stay away from the bad stuff,” he said. “But it was also common sense. If I was going to make it and last, I had to stay on a good path.”
Cain urged the students to avoid falling victim to alcohol and drugs, to seek out musicians who are better than them and to keep fans in mind when writing and performing music.
Staying clean helps band members deal with “the curveballs thrown by success,” Cain said, calling “temptation to fall off the path” his biggest obstacle in nearly 40 years with the band. He added that musicians can’t improve until they play with other high-level performers and write music that people can relate with.
“It’s not just about the music you want to make — it’s about the people that are listening to you,” he said.
Both Cain and Valory challenged students to follow their dreams and “keep a backup plan” in case their music careers don’t work out.
Valory, one of the band’s five founding members, told the aspiring musicians to be “vigilant and focused” while keeping their feet on the ground. He said his biggest regret was not being able to afford to attend a music school, adding that current Las Vegas Academy students are fortunate to have a head start on their music education.
Above all, Valory said, musicians must find a way to stay motivated and their work shouldn’t start to feel like “just a job.”
“Don’t confuse your efforts to be in the music business with what truly inspires you,” Valory said.
Sophomore Las Vegas Academy piano students Gerrard Larrieu, 15, Ian Walton, 16, and Jordan de Marigny, 15, all sat within a couple body lengths of the Journey musicians during their presentation on Wednesday. They grew up as Journey fans after being introduced to the band’s music from their parents and the video game Rock Band.
“They’re a good example of what can happen when you stick with it,” Larrieu said when asked what he took away from the presentation.
“You just have to keep trying,” de Marigny added.