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March 13, 2011

Teens Love Staying After Class at the School of Rock

by Roger Hsu

Is Rock and Roll something young people should learn at school? The founders of an after-school music program called School of Rock believe it is, and it's a school that kids love to go to.

These teenagers in a classroom in suburban Virginia are not just jamming for fun. School of Rock is a private company that operates in almost 70 schools throughout the United States. In these classes kids learn to play the instrument of their choice. Vocal lessons are available, too. The jumping and strutting… they teach themselves.

Emily Volles is learning to be a rock singer. “I never actually performed before, so this is the first time I am doing performances and stuff. I just love performing for people and I didn’t really realize how much I love to perform until I came here.”

Kaila Haston said both her mother and father wanted her to enroll. “My parents, when I came here, they were so excited about this. My dad encouraged me to do this all the time. And my mom she loves it too.”

Fees are about $275 per month. For that, beginners get a weekly individual class and a weekly group rehearsal. The school also gives advanced classes. Lessons are taught by professional musicians.

Branden Mijares said before coming to the School of Rock, he was only interested in computer games. “I didn’t get into any kind of music until I was in 7th grade. Before that, just straight computer, computer games. I was a hardcore nerd.”

Mijares says he is learning about more than just music. “You can learn about who you are, truly, on the inside. I play late at night and I start playing riffs that I’ve never heard myself play before. They speak to me in a sense, in that they tell me how I am really feeling.”

Chris Edwards, another guitarist, said he feels the same way. “Being here just playing with other people, I learned how to just have fun. Before I was sort of laid back and quiet, but after I came here I learned how to have fun.”

For Kris Moorhead, though, a drummer and singer, the School of Rock means much more than having fun. He said the school helped him get through a very sad time. His sister died of leukemia 10 years ago.

"Originally, when my sister died, I was eight-years old, and I had just been kind of depressed," said Moorhead. "I started listening to music, and I was in a dark place,but eventually, learning to play drums, singing - those things helped me get through it, which saved me.”

Now he is fighting his own battle. A year ago he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. For him, the School of Rock is its own kind of therapy.

“I am not trying to say I am the greatest person in the world, but I know a lot of people will miss me and need me so they are my inspiration, my friends and families. And School of Rock is definitely a part of that. Music in general saved my life and the (the lives of) many people I know,” said Moorhead.