Who doesn’t dream of wailing on the guitar like Angus Young in AC/DC? For most of us, that’s just a pipe dream. But for students at Louisville’s new School of Rock, it’s becoming a reality.
School of Rock is a national chain of music schools founded in Philadelphia in the 1980s as the Paul Green School of Rock Music. Green was a pioneer of performance-based curriculum. After the success of the movie “School of Rock,” starring Jack Black, Green capitalized on the exposure and franchised the company.
Now the school is in more than 140 cities, including Louisville, which will host a grand opening on Saturday, Oct. 27.
Melanie Scofield — owner of the Louisville franchise, which is in Middletown — said she and her husband, Doug Scofield, director of communications for Louisville’s Volunteers of America, wanted to open a location here because of the vibrant music scene.
“There’s so much live music going on,” she said. “There’s so many people playing music, we just thought there was so much opportunity for the kids to start early and not only perfect their craft and become great musicians, but also to have great opportunities to play on stage and to perform.”
School of Rock teaches private music lessons just like other music schools, but the students also get group rehearsals where they are paired with other musicians to form a band.
Instructors help the groups pick out songs that best suit their skill level, and at the end of each 12-week semester, they play a live concert in a real music venue around town.
“At School of Rock, we don’t teach music to put on shows, we put on shows to teach music,” said Scofield. “Because if the kids are working toward a goal together, they’re going to learn faster and they’re going to practice more. They’re going to stick with it, they’re going to have fun, they’re not going to get bored and quit, and they’re going to learn a lot along the way about playing together as a group, being in tune together, really connecting together through the music. That’s kind of what keeps our kids from quitting because they stay interested in what they’re doing.”
Music Director Patrick Denney said in his years of teaching music around the Louisville area, he sees the difference performance-based curriculum makes.
“One of the biggest complaints I would hear from parents about lessons is that they would see their son or daughter just come and go,” he said. “They go to their lessons, learn what they would learn and go home. Maybe they would practice, maybe they wouldn’t. That’s just all it was: Same thing over and over.”
But working toward the goal of performing in a show gave them something more to motivate the students.
“Each student, depending on what they play, might have anywhere between four to seven songs per show,” said Denney. “So it’s piques their curiosity. They have to do a little self-reflection at home. It gets them into the critical thinking aspect of it as well.”
Having a group to play with teaches kids a little bit of responsibility, too, Denney said, because each player must practice his or her own part. If they don’t practice enough, other kids in the group will give them a little “positive peer pressure,” reminding him or her that they must practice for the group’s sake.
School of Rock isn’t Louisville’s only music school with performance-based curriculum. Mom’s Music also has a Rock School with a similar concept. And there’s the Girls Rock Louisville summer camp as well.
School of Rock starts teaching kids as young as 3 in its “Little Wings” program, then at 5, kids advance to “Rookies,” then “Rock 101” and then “Performance.”
Adults can also participate, Scofield said. The adults group is called “Grad School,” though the students can be absolute beginners, too. They also are put in a band.
“Once they gel as a band and have a set list ready that they feel comfortable with, then we set up opportunities for them to play publicly,” said Scofield. “We gig them out. They don’t get paid for it, but they enjoy it. They have a heck of a good time.”
Saturday’s grand opening will feature a concert in the parking lot by students from the Fort Wayne School of Rock to show what’s possible with the school’s instruction. The school will be open for tours, as well as some free trial instruction.
“We’ll actually be teaching the kids how to play a rock song, whether they’ve ever actually touched an instrument or not,” Scofield said. “Then they’ll actually go on our performance stage and perform for their parents.”
Instructors also will be performing, there will be a rock ’n’ roll costume contest with a grand prize of a Fender guitar, Havana Rumba-catered food and a guitar smash — “and that’s the only time we smash guitars,” said Scofield with a laugh.
The School of Rock grand opening runs from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27. It is located at 12001 Shelbyville Road in Middletown.