Play it loudNov 24, 2021 08:03AM ● By Tricia Hoadley
It is an early Wednesday evening at the School of Rock in Hockessin, and once in the catacombs of its classrooms and studios, the reverb of electric guitars and clashing drums and songbird swirl of young female voices blends like a symphony of dreams realized.
In one room, an impromptu band of teenagers throttle their way through Led Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song” under the note by note tutelage of an instructor. In the next room, a drummer counts his other musicians into The Zombies classic “Time of the Season,” while down the hall, a 9-year-old uses her small hands to weave her way through Stevie Nicks’ “Landslide” to the accompaniment of a teacher on keyboards.
Taking up a narrow sliver of the Lantana Square Shopping Center, it is obvious to anyone born with a conscience and a rock and roll heart that School of Rock Hockessin is the living and harmonious and E-Chord power slam manifestation of what happens when a tennis racket strummed in a bedroom to Santana becomes a real plugged in electric guitar.
This is not banging kitchen utensils into the soft cushions of a couch but a place where the drumsticks and the high hat come with proper instructions. This is not the hairbrush in the hallway scenario, but where an actual microphone is placed in a hand with the unbridled permission to let it rip.
There are no discount amps propped up against an oily engine in a father’s garage but a spread of top-flight musical equipment, and everywhere – near drum kits and at the feet of every young musician – are the line by line and note by note music sheets for them to turn simple noise into a song, and qualified music instructors whose purpose is to harness these aspirations and also unleash them.
A proven method of musical instruction
“A mother and her son just came in for a tour and the mother asked me, ‘Will my son learn how to read music?’” said School of Rock Hockessin Manager Mike Pesce, who opened the franchise with his business partner Aaron Wygonik in June. “It’s a very valid question, because for parents who are skeptical of our educational model, their assumption is that we just hit the power chords and put the snare on the drum and start to jam.
“I showed the mother some sheet music in a teaching studio, on which a teacher had hand written notes so that the child she was teaching could learn scales.”
Founded by Paul Green in 1998, School of Rock franchises and corporate-run schools anchor more than 300 communities around the world – 245 in the U.S. and 55 internationally – offering a full slate of musical education that reaches close to 50,000 students. Its patented School of Rock Method™ has taught hundreds of thousands of students in musical proficiency by integrating stage performance, individual and group instruction and song-based learning.
In addition to lessons in guitar, bass guitar, singing, keyboards and piano and songwriting, School of Rock Hockessin provides a full array of programs, all under the tutelage of experienced teachers and musicians:
· Its Little Wing music program teaches preschoolers and toddlers foundational music skills by playing games and participating in other interactive musical activities. Little Wing students have one weekly group music lesson in which they use classic rock songs to learn about rhythm, song structure, melody and dynamics through play.
· Designed for children 6 and 7 years of age, Rookies is tailored to students with no previous musical experience, who engage in one weekly group music lesson where they learn music fundamentals like chords, rhythm and song structure.
· Rock 101, for students 8 to 13, is one of School of Rock’s major programs for kids and beginners, that combines performance-based music education with a unique curriculum designed for kids with no previous musical experience. Students have one weekly group rehearsal where they learn classic rock songs that have been simplified specifically for beginner musicians. Traditionally, Rock 101 groups are the “opening act” for the Performance groups at end-of-season shows.
· Targeted to students from 12 to 18, Performance Program consists of a weekly group rehearsal where students learn by playing rock music's most iconic songs with a band composed of their peers. The goal of this curriculum is to prepare kids and teens for live performances.
· School of Rock’s Songwriting Program, for students 12 and over, teaches the fundamentals of songwriting, arrangement and music theory, and helps students compose original works.
· School of Rock Hockessin’s lessons for adults utilizes a performance-based curriculum, that pair adult students with experienced instructors who teach adult students popular rock songs in a way that’s challenging and fun. Adult students can join a band of their own beginning January 2022.
‘I had the time of my life at School of Rock’
Traditionally, an outgrowth of musical education comes in the form of live recitals. At the School of Rock, performance takes on a different look, with real rock shows at real venues in front of live audiences. The first live performance by School of Rock will be
held on Dec. 12 at The Center for the Creative Arts in nearby Yorklyn, with a concert that will begin at 2 p.m.
For Annette Riblett of Avondale, enrolling her 11-year-old son Vincent in beginning guitar lessons a month ago has allowed him to approach learning based on his own interests, not on a teacher’s choice of what to play.
“The instructors asked him to select five songs he wants to learn how to play,” Riblett said. “I think being here adds another layer of his education in becoming well-rounded and being able to accomplish this all on his own. I’m hoping he takes music as far as he wants, because I think music education in this form is a marvelous gift to young people.”
When Dan DeFlilippo of Kennett Square realized that his 9-year-old daughter Charlotte had a lovely voice, he locked her into singing lessons at School of Rock Hockessin.
“These lessons are helping her discover her range and her key, and how to better control her voice,” he said. “Charlotte also wants to learn how to play guitar, so we’re also signing her up for lessons. She can take her talents as far as she wants, and this is a great place for her to start.”
“We have been able to get kids to a level of proficiency faster, because our method of teaching combines individual instruction and group rehearsals, all complimented by learning and playing songs that we love and want to celebrate,” Pesce said. “We never promise that we are going to create the next Eddie Van Halen, but we do promise that the student, for as long as he or she is involved in School of Rock, will enjoy their time here, will grow musically, personally, and they will look back on their time here as time well spent.”
‘Create an environment where there is no judgment’
In study after study, musical education has been proven to improve a student’s academic performance, improve test scores and better develop social and emotional skills like perseverance teamwork and core competencies like decision-making. Embedded into the four major music education processes – create, present, respond, connect – becoming involved with music gives young people the essential tools to become impactful leaders, creators, independent thinkers, and empowered young people.
Music can also become the first step one makes in order to determine self-definition and self-value. When Pesce and Wygonik were in the planning stages of School of Rock Hockessin, they attended several franchise meetings where they learned the impact of what their business venture has had on young people.
“We heard time and again from parents who told us that their son or daughter was aimless and didn’t have a place to land, and then they came to School of Rock and found a place where they felt they belonged,” Pesce said. “One mother told the story about how her son had been suffering with depression and bullying, and how School of Rock had literally saved his life.
“If we can create an environment where there is no judgment-- if we can build self confidence – then we’re doing our very best work. Rock has become a beacon for children who often don’t land in the popular paradigm, and School of Rock is a place where they fit right in. They get to take off all of their hats they wear outside of here when they arrive, and get to play music.”
When asked how School of Rock Hockessin can best be defined, Pesce spoke about the musical journey of Angie, a 15-year-old girl who has not only begun to take singing lessons there, but is also working on developing her songwriting skills with the School’s teachers, who are songwriters themselves.
The young woman, Pesce said, is blind.
“I’m honored to open our doors to allow Angie to express herself and harness her creativity,” he said. “She is here to give herself that gift and hopefully be able to pass on her gift to others. When I first met her, on a tour with her family, I turned to one of our instructors and said, ‘I want more than anything for her to front one of our bands – not only because she is so talented, but because I want to drive home the fact that School of Rock Hockessin is a place for everyone.’”
School of Rock Hockessin is located at 138 Lantana Drive in the Lantana Shopping Center, Hockessin, Del. 19707. To learn more about lessons, visit www.hockessin.schoolofrock.com or call 302-433-7625. The school adheres to strict COVID-19 safety protocols.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].