Former “American Idol” contestant Leslie Hunt opening music school/performance space in downtown St. Charles

St. Charles resident and professional musician Leslie Hunt Hunt next month will open the Hunt House Creative Arts Center, located at 113 E. Main St. in downtown St. Charles.

Whenever one of Leslie Hunt’s friends would visit her childhood home in St. Charles, it was like they were taking in a concert.

Hunt, who finished among the final 10 female contestants on “American Idol” in 2007, hopes to re-create that same type of atmosphere at the Hunt House Creative Arts Center, located at 113 E. Main St. in downtown St. Charles. Hunt House is set to open its doors in January.

“My mom taught voice throughout my life in our living room,” said Hunt, who moved back to St. Charles in 2015. “The house that I grew up in, my friends would call it the Hunt House. We always had a public address system in the living room and my dad’s drums were always set up. A party at our house included my friends laying on the floor and listening to all the songs I had just written. It was just a musical place that brought people together and I wanted to provide that same kind of feeling here.”

Hunt House is a music and arts school/performance space that offers private and group lessons for children, teens and adults. The St. Charles Area Chamber of Commerce will celebrate the grand opening of Hunt House at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 5. The event is free and open to the public.

“We’re going to start teaching on Jan. 9,” Hunt said.

Hunt is a professional musician and composer who has released several albums over the years and fronts the progressive rock band District 97. She will be one of five instructors at Hunt House.

Currently, Hunt teaches voice, piano, songwriting, guitar and ukulele lessons out of her home.

“I also teach pop piano and music theory and how to kind of accompany yourself when you’re singing and playing at the same time and how to read chords and voice them,” she said.

Hunt’s boyfriend Mike Ullegue, who also is a professional musician, will teach a class at the Hunt House, where students can learn the basics of guitar, bass and drums in a group setting.

“If you don’t know quite yet what you want to focus on and you want to try and learn the basics of drums, bass and guitar, he can teach you the basics of all three,” Hunt said. “He taught at School of Rock in Geneva for a long time and he’ll be teaching here.”

Ullegue said he is looking forward to teaching the power trio class.

“When I was learning how to play guitar as a kid, I was playing drums and guitar along the way,” he said. “The idea of the class is to give everybody the opportunity to understand the relationship between all three instruments and learn how to play them. You don’t have to be super proficient, but just learn a basic drum beat or a simple bass line or a simple guitar part, just to get an idea of what the other person is doing and going through. I think it opens up a lot of creative doors.”

Ullegue said he still likes to play all three instruments when he gets the chance.

The Hunt House also has a performance stage so students will get the chance to experience performing in front of an audience.

“A lot of my students are going to be encouraged pretty much every lesson to get on the stage and share something,” Hunt said.

Students also will have the chance to open for musicians that Hunt plans to bring in to perform.

The Hunt House will add to the entertainment flavor on that block in downtown St. Charles. The Hunt House is located just a few doors down from the Arcada Theatre and is just around the corner from Moonlight Theatre, which is expected to open its doors soon.

The concerts that will be put on at Hunt House will be sensory friendly.

“I’m hoping that the neurodivergent communities, particularly people on the autism spectrum, will come in and really feel like they can enjoy a concert because it’s kept at a certain volume,” she said. “We are trying to create social opportunities for people that are neurodivergent that have a hard time otherwise socializing.”

Hunt has had the idea of opening a creative arts center since high school, she said.

“I remember looking at that castle in Wayne and wanting to turn it into a healthy, drug-free, creative space for artsy people,” Hunt said. “Obviously, that is way out of budget. I scaled it back a little bit. I want the Hunt House to feel like a community. We’re all learning from each other. Even the instructors are learning from each other.”

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