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Musician Jeff Lockhart Rocks On Stage and Off

Drummer and Kirkland Cachet Award winner is the brainchild behind Northwest University's growing Creatio Institute recording studio.

“Everything you need to know in life, you learn in a rock band.”

That's Jeff Lockhart’s motto as the executive director of ’s Creatio Institute and as the recent recipient of Kirkland’s CACHET Award, which honors residents who foster "Collaboration, Arts, Culture, Heritage, Education and Theater."

“I had absolutely no idea that I was going to win and was shocked and humbled when they announced my name,” he says of the CACHET ceremony last month, where he delivered an impromptu acceptance speech wearing a sweater and tee-shirt.

Creatio Institute is a music education and recording studio consisting of three main parts. The academic third features new, fully accredited bachelor's degree programs in recording arts technology music industry business.

The commercial recording segment of Creatio was immediately fully booked by numerous musicians anxious to digitally record their sound. Though they by no means work exclusively with Christian musicians, Creatio does provide recording services predominantly to churches.

“There’s a real trend in churches to write their own music. They want to record their original work to use as outreach. No studio around caters to that demographic and we do specifically,” says Lockhart in describing Creatio’s niche market as a recording studio.

The third component of Creatio is an after-school program called URock (as in Univerisity of Rock). URock, which is not a specifically Christian-affiliated program, is a place where local junior high and high school students learn leadership skills, how to be in a band, how to get along and collaborate with others. Students receive a 30-minute private lesson taught by Indie musicians active in the Seattle music scene, culminating in a band recording project where students perform two covers and one original piece at Seattle’s Hard Rock Cafe.

But Creatio is a culmination of Lockhart’s musical journey. Let’s go back to how his love of music began.

While most five-year-old’s blow their allowance on candy, Lockhart chose to spend his cash on records. His first album, Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain,” he remembers buying at K-Mart.

“I listened to music more than I watched TV,” he says.

Growing up in the 1970’s, Jeff amassed a large collection of vinyl throughout his childhood, recorded by the likes of The Beatles, Credence Clearwater Revival and Jimi Hendrix.

Starting at age 11, Jeff took drum lessons every Thursday until the end of high school, in addition to being a self-taught guitar player. When he enrolled at Northwest University in 1985 (then Northwest College), it was the beginning of a long relationship with the school.

Lockhart graduated in 1989, returning a few years later to work at the university. He subsequently made a detour, spending five years as a stock broker for Edward Jones. With the financial breakdown following the Sept. 11 tragedy, Jeff returned to Northwest University in a position raising funds for the school’s Health Sciences Center.

About the same time in 2003, a group of Lockhart's “best buddies” formed a band to play worship music at a local start-up church. Discovering that they all loved the Beatles, the group set an unusual goal: to learn all 31 songs in the White Album. They were invited to open for a friend’s band at a local club.

“That’s when things took off,” Lockhart Jeff.

During their first year, the band played 40 gigs showcasing songs from this one album. Playing on the headline stage at the Taste of Tacoma, the promoter suggested that the band change their name to Cream Tangerine and introduce more of The Beatles’ hits. Cream Tangerine can now play 70 percent of the Beatles’ catalog of 220 songs.

Cream Tangerine is a very successful local cover band, working with the Portland Trailblazers, Seattle’s own Sounders, other sporting events including gigs with the Mariners and corporate events with Microsoft. They always seem to have a local show in Kirkland during the summer.

“I love the people that you meet (playing music),” says Lockhart. “I love the fact that you never master it; it’s something you start and do your whole life. I love that you can do it as your vocation and that you can collaborate with other people.”

In 2008, he wrote a business plan for Creatio Institute as a fundraising project. Cedar Park Church generously donated $390,000 worth of top of the line music recording gear to help Creatio become a reality. It officially launched in November 2009 and, with the upcoming retrofit of the university’s chapel into a world-class sound stage, Creatio, its backers claim, will be the largest recording facility on the West Coast north of San Francisco.

Creatio’s creative director, Steve Smith, is certainly another reason clients are drawn to the studio. He has engineered and produced 25 gold and platinum albums, winning two Grammy awards for his work with dcTalk and Steven Curtis Chapman. Smith has also worked with Garth Brooks and Stevie Wonder during his 35 years in the music industry.

The musical gene has naturally emerged in the Lockhart children. Jeff’s daughter, Olivia, a 15 year old sophomore at , plays the guitar. Banging out a beat on the drums is Ethan, a fourteen year old eighth grade student at .

“You can’t live with me and not be interested in music,” says Lockhart.

The Lockhart’s, including Jeff’s wife, Andrea -- an ER nurse at -- have lived in the Houghton neighborhood for eight years. You can see Lockhart pounding the skins with Cream Tangerine this July during the Kirkland Uncorked festival.

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