“With more than a decade of successful experience teaching music, School of Rock is the national leader in music education for kids from 7 to 17. Students learn from professional musicians in an interactive environment combining weekly private lessons and structured group rehearsals with the ultimate goal of performing live in front of crowds.”
That’s the official, kind of ho-hum PR statement, lifted directly from the School of Rock website . Here’s the real deal from a mom who knows: School of Rock is AWESOME. Imagine that you’re in or near your teens, and your friend’s massively cool older brother agrees to give you guitar lessons. Now imagine that those lessons happen in a space where it doesn’t matter if you break anything. The only grown-ups around are actually encouraging you to get louder while you jam on the best music that classic rock has to offer. I am here to tell you that if School of Rock existed when I was a kid, my life would’ve gone in a whole different direction.
I know from whence I speak. My son, now 11, has been taking guitar lessons at the School of Rock since he was 7, and – no parental bias involved, I swear – he can ROCK.
Here’s how it works: kids get one private, 45-minute lesson per week in guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, or vocals. Plus, they get to sign up for one show per season (about 3-4 seasons per year), and there’s a 3-hour rehearsal for each show every week. Shows feature songs from a single band – e.g., The Who, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Metallica, Grateful Dead, etc. (not bad, eh?) – or a showcase of songs from a genre like Women Who Rock, Funk, Punk Rock, etc. (my son is currently rehearsing for the Grunge show, in case you’re interested).
Clearly, I’m a fan. I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t mention a couple of caveats. For example, song lyrics aren’t edited, so you’ve got to be comfortable with your kid maybe yelling a couple of expletives into a microphone from time to time (though the School of Rock will honor requests to re-cast songs if you’re uncomfortable with a particular song). And sometimes the venues are, well, a little shaky. After seeing my then 8-year-old singing Mother’s Little Helper under a giant banner reading “Jaeger Bombs: $2.50,” I figured I wasn’t going to be wearing a Mother of the Year tiara anytime soon. The teaching method is definitely not old school – it’s rock first, mechanics later. Your offspring won’t be learning scales to ticking metronomes, and it’ll probably be awhile before they can read music. But there are some huge plusses: your kid won’t complain (much) about practicing, and they’re far more likely to stick with School of Rock than with traditional lessons (no, I don’t have the statistics handy, but trust me, most kids will stay interested in Led Zeppelin a lot longer than, say, Beethoven). One of the most important skills they’ll pick up has little to do with music, though – they’ll learn to be comfortable performing in front of an audience. Given that public speaking ranks #1 on most people’s list of fears, that’s a pretty great value-add. I’ve seen some painfully shy kids really blossom. Guitar lessons? Some bucks. Self-confidence? Priceless.
Oh, and guess what? Some of the parents have formed a band, and will be opening at a few of the shows… and it doesn’t embarrass their kids! Ladies and gentlemen, we have officially surpassed ‘cool’ and ‘awesome,’ and moved into the territory of Pure Magic.
Cary Sullivan is a freelance writer, editorial consultant, and community volunteer. She enjoyed a variety of editorial roles during her 25 years in corporate publishing, and holds a degree in Creative Writing from Florida State University. She moved to Hopewell from New York City with her husband and son nine years ago.