A native of the small farming community of New Hampton, Iowa, Utterback taught himself to play the drums at age fourteen in his family’s woodshed. He later attended Minnesota State in Mankato and formed a band with some friends. The group become a touring act, playing about 100 to 120 shows per year and recorded three albums.
After his college band broke up, Utterback applied to and attended Musicians Institute in central Los Angeles to cultivate his love and passion for music. After moving to LA, he quickly joined a band and played drums with the group for close to six years. The group played at premier LA venues like The Mint and The Viper Room and participated in the SXSW music festival.
Utterback opened the original Pure Rock Studios music lesson facility with two colleagues in a transformed warehouse in Whittier, California. After two years at Pure Rock, Utterback knew that it was time to return home to the Midwest. He moved into a home in northwest Rochester and began teaching music lessons out of his garage. When his students grew from one to seventy-five, he knew it was time to find a larger space. In January 2015, Utterback opened Pure Rock Studios of Rochester in its current location in northeast Rochester.
Pure Rock Studios is a lesson and performance center that custom fits lessons to meet student’s needs. Pure Rock provides private and group lessons, but also gives students the ability to participate in live performances, if they want to. Utterback believes that live performance builds up a student’s confidence and stage presence, a skill important in multiple aspects of life, and allows students to immediately apply the techniques they learn in class.
“Pure Rock is the live performance opportunities as well as private lessons. It’s Pure Rock Studios. We rock out. We rock out country music. We rock out praise music. We rock out hard rock music. All styles. But we really want that performance aspect,” Utterback explained.
Pure Rock Studios of Rochester currently has fourteen instructors who are all working musicians. Along with Utterback’s wife, the team has been extremely instrumental and supportive of Pure Rock’s growth. Currently, the studio is undergoing a 3,000-square foot expansion to add on a performance space and almost double the size of the facility.
Utterback encourages students to learn about business, especially when they’re young, although he admits business ownership requires a lot of hard work and hustle. He wants his students to know that you can make a career out of music. “You can be that recording artist that plays a video game. You can make a jingle for the next Pixar movie. You can be a touring artist and play. You can teach. And you can teach and still do all those things,” he said.
The music venue scene, especially small venues, is lacking in Rochester, although the city is full of musical talent. Utterback believes that there must be a healthy art scene in Rochester, which includes music, to get people to stay here and make it a real destination city. “People need to go out and support live music if they want it to continue. Music does something to you. It can take you away from whatever stress you’re dealing with. And that’s important in a town with a major medical center,” he stated.