‘Kaltenbach to Rock’: A boy’s journey from anxiety to music


A local Encinitas music studio has helped one boy gain his confidence back after suffering a traumatic incident years ago, the boy's mother said.

Four years ago, while attending second grade at a school in Orange County, Drew Kaltenbach, now 11, suffered a severe anaphylactic reaction to peanuts. The episode required two rounds of Epinephrine, or the Epi-pen, and the boy had to spend two days in the hospital, said his mother, Lisa Kaltenbach.

The experience was so traumatic that Drew — who has airborne allergies to peanuts and tree nuts — developed bad anxiety and couldn't return to school for the next year.

"He was just so focused on the fact that he had the reaction at school and it could happen again," Lisa recalled, adding that Drew's cousin had died of a nut allergy attack. "[Drew is] very aware of his own mortality. When he's at school, it's the only environment that we can't control or I can't be there for him."

The family moved to San Elijo Hills two years ago, and Lisa found a place that she believed would help Drew gain his confidence back: Bach to Rock, a space in Encinitas where children can learn how to play a variety of instruments to become rock stars in their own right.

The mother had a hunch an outlet like that would be perfect for her son, who grew up listening to bands like Guns N' Roses and Metallica and dreamed of playing lead guitar for Audioslave.

"All my friends like pop music, and I'm more different,” Drew said as he strummed his guitar during a recent lesson.

Bach to Rock, which opened last year at 282 North El Camino Real in New Encinitas as the franchise's 23rd location, has embraced Drew and his allergies, Lisa said. After Drew enrolled last year, owner Rick Walker committed his facility to become a nut-free environment. He also instructed all of his staff on how to use an Epi-pen should Drew enter an episode while in their care.

"They just make it a safe place for him to come, where he can just focus on music and not his allergies," Lisa said.

Since joining Bach to Rock, Drew, who attends sixth grade at San Elijo Middle School, has earned straight “As” and has become more sociable, his mother said. Last year, he was class president.

"He really just came into his own," Lisa said. "Music, I think, makes him feel not so different. It makes him stand apart but also not so different all the time. ... It's like there's not even anxiety anymore."

Walker, a musician from Carlsbad who formerly worked in environmental health and safety, said one of his goals with the venue was creating a space where he could give back to the community and enrich people's lives with music.

Classes are available for children and adults, from toddlers to seniors, in individual and group lessons. Most lessons last from a half-hour to an hour.

Walker said he's witnessed Drew become more confident and "sure of himself" since joining Bach to Rock, where he's learned to play the guitar, bass and drums and has performed in the rock band program.

"I wanted to give back to the community that I've really grown to love, and that means taking care of people and their kids and giving people the opportunity to sort of blossom into an adult," Walker said. "Drew is just really a different kid than when he started here, in the best way."

When asked for comment about how the program has helped him gain his confidence back and how it feels knowing Bach to Rock is a safe space for his allergies, Drew's commitment to the guitar was ever-present.

"Yeah, they've helped me a lot," he answered as he played a Metallica song.

The boy's concentration could not be broken. A mind once riddled with anxiety now had something more uplifting to be preoccupied with.

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