Len Sitnick walks out of his office to the sight of kids of all ages hanging out with each other strumming guitars and hitting drumsticks on their legs. In the background, Sitnick can hear a bassist playing a song and two drummers practicing different drumbeats and fills. This is not the average music classroom. This is Baltimore’s School of Rock.
The School of Rock is a performance-based music program for kids between the ages of eight and 18. The kids that are enrolled in the program take private lessons with an instructor, but also participate in a weekly group program with other students that cover the music of some of the greatest rock and roll bands.
Sitnick, the branch manager for Baltimore’s School of Rock, opened the school in September 2006. Baltimore’s School of Rock has 150 students that enjoy learning new techniques and songs from trained instructors that have the same passion for music as the students do.
“Our main goal is to allow kids to play music at whatever level they want,” Sitnick said. “Some kids are here to learn a little bit about music but love the social aspect of the school while other kids are here because they want to make a career out of music.”
School of Rock features music programs set up for student’s ages and music ability. Rock School 101 is set up for the younger musicians who are just learning to play music. As the students get older and progress musically, they advance to play seasonal shows and cover different bands and genres. The students get to show off their talent to family and friends at some of the biggest venues and festivals around Baltimore, including Rams Head Live, Bourbon Street and the 8×10.
Evan Cooper, a musician and student at the School of Rock, has been with the program for two years. Cooper has played over 50 shows with the School of Rock and has covered bands like Elvis Costello, Queen and The Beatles. School of Rock has helped Cooper progress in all of the different instruments he plays and has also made him want to learn new instruments. Cooper also believes that playing and growing up with the students really helps them evolve as musicians.
“There is no separation between the different age groups in the program, and that gives you a good chance to meet people who are also aspiring to be musicians,” Cooper said. “It’s just good to know there is a broad spectrum of people that share similar interests as me and really love music. I would recommend the School of Rock to any young musician.”
Baltimore’s School of Rock has grown to become one of the biggest and best schools in the country. Janet Decker, the studio manager for School of Rock, started coming to the school as a mother of a student and started working there a few months later. When her son first enrolled in 2006, there were 40 musicians in the School of Rock compared to the 150 that are enrolled currently.
“Since my son has been with the School of Rock, the numbers have grown and his love for music has grown,” Decker said. “He used to just play a little trumpet, but after he saw a friend play a show with the school, he really wanted to learn guitar and he has not put it down since. Through my personal experience, I have nothing but good things to say about the School of Rock.”
There are many instructors at the School of Rock that have a deep background in music. The instructors at School of Rock give lessons for guitar, bass, piano, drums and singing. Jason Heiser, a drum instructor at the School of Rock, has been working with the school for four months. In his short time with the school, Heiser has noticed a difference in his students’ abilities behind the drum set.
“My students are progressing and getting better in weeks. They really dive into the music and get the song right which is very rewarding,” Heiser said. “We try to help these kids as much as we can and teach them all we know and mold them into musicians and rock stars.”
The School of Rock also introduces new music and genres to the students, which expands their musical interests as listeners and musicians. Ted Merrill, a guitarist for the School of Rock, owes a lot to the school for getting him involved in playing music but also introducing him to new genres.
Merrill could barely play guitar when he entered the school, but can now play guitar riffs from Jimmy Page and Eddie Van Halen. The School of Rock is a special place and Baltimore is lucky to have a great program that is developing our future musicians.
“The School of Rock has been one of the best experiences in my life and I have so much fun every time I’m here,” Merrill said. “I’ve learned more things here than any music lesson I have taken in the past. I am going to be at the School of Rock until they throw me out.”