Last summer (I can't believe it's been a year!), I said to the Beaner, "it's time for music lessons. Would you like to do piano, guitar, or vocals?" He replied, "I want to play the drums." This I found interesting, as I, too, had wanted to play the drums as a child. Well, actually I wanted to play the flute when we were offered the opportunity to choose band instruments in fourth grade, but back in the olden days, when asthma wasn't well understood, I was told that asthmatics couldn't play the flute. "Then I want to play the drums," I said. For me this meant getting a drum pad and sticks and a drum teacher. For the Beaner, it meant calling the School of Rock.
I had noticed the sign for the (original Paul Green) School of Rock when I first moved to Philadelphia and read about it in an article online, and I'd seen posters on Chestnut Street for SOR shows. (And of course, since then, I've seen the movie.) In the intervening years, the School of Rock became a franchise, and there are now locations around the country—including several in this area. I picked the one in Philadelphia proper because that's where we live, and we arranged to visit the place and see if there was a program that was right for the Beaner.
The main School of Rock gig is the Performance Program, in which students have a private lesson in their instruments weekly, plus a 3-hour weekly rehearsal for a particular show (past shows have included themes like The Ramones, 90s Rock, Freedom Rock, Led Zeppelin, and Arena Rock) over 8-10 weeks. Each kid is assigned a few songs, and at rehearsals the participants in each song practice together as a band. At the end of the season, the kids play two shows: one on a Friday night at the School of Rock, and one the next afternoon at a real rock venue such as Johnny Brenda's or The Legendary Dobbs.
For younger kids, the School of Rock also has a program called Rock 101. This is what we signed the Beaner up for, since he was 7 at the time and had no experience playing the drums yet. It's similar to the Performance Program except that there's no show to aim for—just weekly 90-minute jam sessions with fellow 101 Rockers. The shorter rehearsal time was a better fit for his attention span as well as his experience. There was a drum lesson spot open just before 101 on Saturdays, so we took that.
I should probably mention here that the philosophy of the School of Rock is to get kids playing real rock music as soon as possible, and to teach music theory as they go. Putting learning actual songs first gives the kids the incentive they need to practice and to improve their technique. Thus it was that the Beaner was learning basic rock beats in his lessons while also banging out Blitzkrieg Bop and Hit Me With Your Best Shot in Rock 101.
We wanted to make sure the Beaner would stick with it before we invested in a drum set, so we started him out with a set of sticks, a table, a chair, and a shoebox. Al and I both worked with him for the first few weeks of home practice to help him with timing, but after that, his skill eclipsed ours. That's when we got him a drum set—a very basic kit that we will eventually upgrade when this one wears out (and it will if he keeps playing :-).
I'd started looking forward to spending a couple hours at the School of Rock every Saturday; I enjoyed listening to the kids play while getting caught up on random work tasks like fixing or triaging bugs and updating Trello boards. And sometimes I sang along from the kitchen area to whatever was going on back in the Rock 101 room. :-) When they started learning Seven Nation Army, though, I was actually inspired to get out the awesome bass guitar I'd bought during a bout of depression back in the winter of 95-96. I guessed that the bass line would be relatively easy to figure out, and perhaps the Beaner and I could practice a bit together. (Video password is the name of this site.)
This past June the Beaner graduated from Rock 101 and was invited to join the Performance Program. (Rock 101 had become so popular that the SOR actually started a Rock 102, I think on Tuesday nights, but the Beaner preferred to stick with 101 on Saturdays until they forced him out. Not really surprising; he likes to stick with what he knows and avoids change.) He requested The Monkees as his first choice show and got it. Summer shows are a little ragged because so many kids go on family vacations and miss rehearsals, but the Beaner had a blast—and my Saturday work sessions at the SOR went from 2 hours to 4. I helped him practice at home, mostly by singing and playing the tambourine rather than playing bass.
As usual, the Friday night show was held at the School of Rock. Here's "For Pete's Sake" from that show, with the Beaner on drums (apologies for the horrible sound quality; Al was standing right near the monitor when he recorded this):
On Saturday my parents came up to see the show at The Legendary Dobbs on South Street. Here's "Look Out, Here Comes Tomorrow" from that show, again with the Beaner on drums:
Right around the time the kids were doing their final Monkees rehearsal, Craig (Waxman, the GM at the Philly School of Rock) announced that an adult program would be starting up on Thursday nights. It would work similarly to Rock 101: you'd get a weekly lesson and a weekly 2-hour practice session with your fellow adult musicians. The goal (which I kind of ignored, since my goal was merely to finally learn to play my vintage P-bass) would be to play 3 or 4 shows a year in local clubs. I waffled for a couple weeks and then finally took the plunge. I've had two lessons and one practice session so far, and I'm so looking forward to the lesson and session this week. (Though I did kind of forget that I'd have to work daily practice into my busy schedule, which means something will have to give—and that something will be running... which I realize is yet another thing I haven't written about here. Summary: I went from not being able to run the bases at softball in April 2012 to running my first 5K race at a 9:47/mi pace in April 2013.)
After a brief break between show seasons, signups for the winter season shows took place today. The Beaner's first choice was Punk 'n Funk (he's a little unsure what to expect, given that there's no single band to learn about, but he's hoping that there'll be at least one Ramones tune in the lineup), which rehearses on Saturdays again. His second choice was "nothing," but I put in for Women Who Rock, which was not-so-secretly MY first choice. ;-) The Beaner thinks that's just for girls, tho, so he's not really interested.
Al will be splitting the 4-hour Saturday stints at the SOR with me this time, as the UWHL hockey season starts in early October, and we will have at least half our games on Saturdays. With bass lessons on Wednesday nights and Adult Program sessions on Thursday nights, though, I'm still going to be spending a whole lotta time at the Philly SOR. If you have kid who's interested in learning an instrument or singing with a band—or you want to get out that old Fender, or put childhood piano lessons to use on keyboards—come on down! I'll share the table in the kitchen area—or the microphone—with you.