For four years now, the local nonprofit Rock School has been teaching kids ages 12–21 everything they need to know to start a successful career as a rock star. (Or at the very least they learn how to really shred on the guitar.) It started as a small program at an Eastside high school where founder Wendy Simmons (who worked at the school as a youth counselor) wrote a few grants to bring some life to an otherwise unnoticed recording studio on the campus. The response to the new program was immediate and positive, and Rock School was born. Since its inception, the program has expanded to include a Seattle location and welcomes students from all over the Puget Sound.
For two hours a day, four days a week, Rock School students learn everything from how to play instruments (class levels range from beginner to advanced), to songwriting and recording. For the $150 monthly tuition, teens have access to as many classes as they'd like, which are taught by a number of local musicians. Leslie Wood of Ms. Led works with Rock School, as do Rachel Flotard and Ben Hooker of Visqueen. Members of Slender Means and Maktub can also be found wandering the halls. These kids aren't just learning the basics of making music, they're learning it from the very same folks they've probably seen play a Saturday night at the Vera Project.
"[Rock School students] are doing something positive, but they're also learning something they're interested in," says Simmons. "We have scholarships and we provide the gear for kids that might not be able to afford it. And they also get a chance to perform in the community, to get exposure and experience."
Rock School's class list includes Band 101 ("Students form their own bands and work with a mentor to get them prepared to record and play shows," says Simmons), Songwriting & the History of Rock Music, and vocal and instrument lessons.
"There aren't a lot of options out there for kids who are into music. I think Rock School is a great alternative to teen centers and sports," says Simmons. "It's right after school, and the kids still have to practice and be committed. Our objective and our mission statement are completely different than any other local music program I know about. We really focus on developing the whole kid."
And though the name of the school might, well, rock, multiple genres—from blues to punk—are explored and celebrated. Classes start up again on October 3, and Simmons says there's still plenty of time to register for the next quarter. Application and registration information can be found online at www.rock-school.org. You can also contact Rock School via their website if you're interested in making a donation or volunteering your time as an intern or instructor.
For All Ages Action listings, see page 61.