How Rattletree School of Marimba is growing its influence in Austin

A Rattletree School of Marimba band plays at Austin Earth Day 2016.

A Rattletree School of Marimba band plays at Austin Earth Day 2016.

Husband and wife Joel and Rakefet Laviolette met on online dating service OkCupid. Now the founders and instructors at Rattletree School of Marimba are shooting arrows of their own.


Through educating their pupils on traditional southern African music and incubating bands, the Laviolettes are aiming to cultivate a love within the community for the marimba.


“It’s the power of this music,” Joel said. “It is a virus. It’s a beautiful, beautiful virus. … You get hooked.”


The Laviolettes opened Rattletree School of Marimba in January 2013. Prior to that, Joel had been providing lessons out of his Austin home. Earlier this year the school moved to a larger space down the street.


“The business has grown organically over the years as more and more people hear the student bands and want to learn to play marimba,” Rakefet said. “One of the best things about this music is that people of all ages and musical skill levels can be playing a song together in about five minutes.”


At Rattletree’s South Austin space, students gather as bands and play traditional Zimbabwean marimba music. The instrument, much like a xylophone, is played by striking keys with a pair of mallets.




How Rattletree School of Marimba is growing its influence in Austin Co-owner Rakefet Laviolette (background) has taught marimba for three years.[/caption]

Rattletree School of Marimba offers marimba classes for adults and children in addition to being an incubator for marimba bands—students join bands after taking introductory lessons—and offers team-building exercises.


No musical experience is needed to begin a class. In fact, Rakefet said she did not have a musical inclination when she began learning from Joel. Within a few minutes she was able to play along.


The low learning curve and the business’s collaborative nature heightens Rattletree’s appeal as a post-workday activity for many of the school’s students, Rakefet said.


“Students begin with the Intro to African Marimba class and quickly transition into bands,” Rakefet said. “The community around the vibrant, high-energy music is growing steadily.”


Joel, who has traveled to Zimbabwe to study the country’s traditional music, has a band called Rattletree that precedes the school’s existence. Joel built all of the school’s marimbas by hand and said he decided to become a musician at a young age.


He has studied the traditional Zimbabwean instrument the mbira since the 1990s.


Karen Green, who played in Joel’s band in the late 2000s and recently returned to the marimba band fold, said she is not surprised to see his persistence pay off.


“It’s a business model that started from a dream and someone who had a lot of expertise [in the subject] and has been their livelihood,” Green said. “It feels like it’s a stable livelihood for [the Laviolettes].”







What is a marimba? • A percussion instrument with wooden keys that are struck by mallets
• Originated in southern Africa
• The national instrument of Guatemala[/caption]

What is a marimba?



  • A percussion instrument with wooden keys that are struck by mallets

  • Originated in southern Africa

  • The national instrument of Guatemala

SHARE THIS STORY


MOST RECENT

A sign directs voters at the Austin Public Library George Washington Carver Branch during the November 2019 election. Early voting begins Feb. 18 in the 2020 primary election. Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper
Austin primary election 2020: Here are the candidates for local office on the ballot

The filing deadline for candidates to appear on the March 3 primary election passed at 6 p.m. on Dec. 9. The last day to register to vote is Feb. 3, and early voting will begin on Feb. 18.

Austin Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza, at the lectern, speaks at a November 2017 press conference. Garza filed her candidacy for Travis County attorney on Dec. 9.
Delia Garza files for Travis County attorney race, will finish term as Austin Mayor Pro Tem

Austin Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza filed her candidacy paperwork Dec. 9 to run for Travis County attorney as a Democrat.

Byron Smith, left, and Tim Manson are planning to break ground on their new storage business called XSpace in late January. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Australian businessmen betting on success of innovative storage model in western Travis County

A primary difference between their model and more traditional storage models, they say, is the fact that their units are for sale and not for rent. But there are other differences.

The Microtel Inn and Suites is located in Southeast Austin, only a 4.5-mile drive from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. (COURTESY GOOGLE MAPS)
City Council eyes $6.8 million purchase of 71-room hotel in Southeast Austin for second homeless shelter conversion

The Microtel Inn and Suites is a 4.5 mile drive from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport

Following allegations that an assistant chief used racist and homophobic language, the Austin Police Department may have to suspend future cadet classes. Austin City Council supported an investigation into the department at a Dec. 5 meeting. (Courtesy Austin Police Department)
Austin City Council supports expansive investigation into police department culture and training, likely suspends one future cadet class

The move follows allegations that a former high-ranking officers regularly used racial slurs throughout his career with no recourse from department leaders.

Residents in District 10 look over proposed zoning map during a meeting in October. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
City Council will hear thoughts from residents on comprehensive revision to land use rules at weekend hearing

City Council will take its first of three votes on the land development code revision Dec. 9.

Sarah House, a Wells Fargo Securities senior economist and director, speaks at the Austin Chamber of Commerce's annual economic outlook, held Dec. 5 at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Economic analyst: Austin economy still strong, but growth has tapered off heading into 2020

At the Austin Chamber of Commerce's annual economic outlook, Sarah House of Wells Fargo said Austin faces challenges of affordability and a tight labor market.

Courtesy Fotolia
City Council wants to know whether some public drinking prohibitions are equitable

The city of Austin allows the public consumption of alcohol except in six designated areas.

Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty in May addressed constituents in Bee Cave regarding the $23 million Bee Creek Sports Complex. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Longtime Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty will not seek re-election following end of current term

Daugherty has served western Travis County for the last 14 years, with terms from 2002-2008 and 2013 to the present.

Austin's Rainey Street District has become one of the most popular entertainment districts in the city. 
(Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Rainey Street shuts down to vehicular traffic Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights through March 8

In a similar fashion to Austin's Sixth Street, cars will be prohibited from entering Rainey Street on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights until March 2020.

The city of Austin authorized the purchase of a Rodeway Inn at 2711 S. I-35 on Nov. 14. The city plans to convert the property into a homeless shelter. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
City staff must be more transparent as city moves toward motel shelter strategy, Austin City Council says

Austin City Council is preparing to purchase another motel for conversion into a homeless shelter, but urged staff to be more transparent as motels are chosen.

Back to top