Ten-year-old Luke Sangerman has been playing the drums since he was 5, but he always had a hard time finding anyone who wanted to play rock'n’ roll with him."I have a drum set at my house, but at school there aren’t that many people who like to play rock as much as I do,” Luke says.
A few months ago, Luke’s parents found the Paul Green School of Rock and now Luke is surrounded by kids who love to rock out to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. Recently, the students, ages 8 to 16, performed Pink Floyd’s"The Wall” at a local club.
The School of Rock in Chicago opened in September as part of a chain of schools that started in Philadelphia and has slowly been moving west. The schools accept kids of all experience levels and use a performance-based rock curriculum. Every week, students attend a private lesson in vocals, drums, keyboard, guitar or bass, as well as a three-hour rehearsal with other students.
“You have to put them in almost a real-world situation,” says Ethan Semone, music director at the school."Some of the older kids are convinced they know the songs as well as they need to know them until they get in rehearsals and they miss cues and that’s really a big thing (to learn).”
The School of Rock can help kids progress faster in music because of the weekly opportunity to play as part of a band, Semone says, but he also makes it clear that this school is for kids who are truly dedicated to music because of the commitment involved.
“We recognize that kids have other things going on, but if you’re going to do this you’re part of a team and you don’t let the team down,” Semone says."I expect hard work and paying attention.”
Students take part in every aspect of playing in a band, from hanging promotional posters to selling tickets for a concert."We try to give them all the experiences they’d have if they had their own band,” Semone says. At the same time, kids are taught all the music basics, from reading music to playing scales.
Thirteen-year-old Mike Weisman of Chicago has played guitar for more than five years and joined the School of Rock several months ago after watching a documentary on it.
“It’s really a cool environment. It’s easygoing, but it’s rock music all the time,” Mike says."It’s really different from school-it’s so much fun to come here and play and get rewarded for playing.”
Dave Dunsire, 16, of Naperville, agrees."What’s not to like about it? I can turn the music up as loud as I want.”
And the best part for many of the kids is that their parents love the rock music as much as they do."My parents are really excited,” Luke says."My dad loves Pink Floyd.”
For more information on the School of Rock, 3043 N. Ashland Ave., call (773) 857-3804.