By Sam Elliott
Friends, family and rock and roll aficionados packed Alley’s Alehouse Jan. 23 for the first performance by School of Rock Fishers students since the school opened last fall.
Six students age 10 and younger from the school’s Rock 101 class opened the show, followed by 10 of School of Rock Fishers’ intermediate and advanced students — who played a concert full of rock and roll classics by the Rolling Stones.
“The kids play great music, but to see their faces beaming when they’re playing and everybody’s here and taping it, it’s awesome,” School of Rock Fishers owner Steve McFarland said. “A lot of them just started playing their instruments and now they’re playing in front of a packed house.”
Students rotated in and out for different songs and many played more than one instrument during the show while also singing vocals. McFarland credited School of Rock’s model of lining up live shows for students with encouraging their practice and development.
“This model ramps up their learning so much faster because they take lessons, plus they also rehearse once a week and they know they’re going to play a show. It’s not like you’re just taking lessons and not really doing it for anything,” he said. “It’s cool because you get to play in a real venue, why wouldn’t you want to practice for that, right?”
McFarland has seen firsthand how School of Rock’s practice can pay off, both with himself and the school’s students.
“We’ll do a beginners camp in the summer. We’ll bring in brand new kids on Monday and by Friday they’ll play about a nine-song show in a real venue and the parents will be taping and their mouths will be hanging open,” he said. “I’m learning the bass, too, so I know what it’s like…
I know that feeling that first night I played Tom Petty’s ‘Free Falling’ — which is like three chords, really simple — but when I was done, I was like, ‘Oh my God I can’t believe I just played a rock song.’ I moved from air guitar to real bass.”