Arts & Entertainment

School of Rock Montclair: Kids Inspired to Learn Music and Form Lasting Friendships

AC Borress (guitar) and Kayla Einhorn (vocals) Credits: Phil Silverberg
Sadie Napierala (keys), Reymond Lamb (guitar), Dylan Gaul (vocals), Sway Bhatia (vocals) and Ezra Richardson (drums) Credits: Jim Read
Nate Lowey (keys), Sway Bhatia (vocals), Zachary Siegel (guitar), Reymond Lamb (vocals) and Levi Wassermann (drums) Credits: Jim Read
Sayan Goodrich (vocals) Credits: Jim Read
Jackson Helms (guitar), Abby Stolte (vocals), Jayson Caguana (guitar) and Moe Watson (instructor in front of stage) Credits: Jim Read

MONTCLAIR, NJ - A unique Montclair school is giving kids the opportunity to not only explore music, but also form lasting friendships and lifelong skills, says SoR leaders.

The School of Rock Montclair located on Valley Road, is a place where eager students go to play a variety of instruments and perform for their teachers, peers and community. It not only teaches kids how to play an instrument, but also become performers and learn from people who understand what it takes to be a musician. These are reasons why general manager Kevin March said the School of Rock gives children an experience unlike any other.

"One of the biggest things is we put on shows to teach music. We're getting them to play with other musicians, rather than doing one on one," March said. "We find it expedites the learning process. They're playing with other musicians who are their peers. They're taking instruction on where they need work and it's motivation to practice."

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The School of Rock Montclair -- which is one of many in the world and opened its doors in 2010 -- teaches group classes so students can socialize and learn from their fellow rockers. With about 15 teachers and 280 students, kids are given a well-rounded music education and the opportunity to meet people who share the same interest.

"It also has a social aspect. When they're not playing at school, it's a great cultural center for like-minded students to come," March said. "It's one of biggest factors of program. They make friends. We have a lot of bands form, and then they kind of are able to have confidence in what they're doing as a musician."

The school has three seasons each year -- fall, spring and summer -- and offers programs such as Rock Rookies for children ages 5 to 7 and Rock 101 for children ages 7 to 11. Students can also do the performance program, which gives opportunities to students of beginner, intermediate and advanced skill. Through their classes, students also have the chance to do two shows at local venues, including Just Jake's. Summer camps are also offered for those looking to spend their break from school playing and learning about music.

The classes primarily teach rock instruments, including drums, bass guitar, electric guitar, keyboard and vocals, but some teachers offer lessons in instruments like the saxophone, trumpet and ukulele as well. 

As important as the students' peers are, it is also the teachers and their musical backgrounds that are so valuable to the School of Rock's aspiring rockers.

"Most of our staff, if not all of them, are also working and have careers as performing musicians," March said. "If they're not teaching, they're out playing. Because they are actual working musicians, they make great teachers."

March himself is a professional musician who has studied music, recorded music, performed live shows and traveled with his band for many years. Other staff members are in bands or perform all different kinds of music as well, making the learning experience even more diverse for School of Rock's students.

Providing this experience and teaching music to students is important to young people, March said, especially since music is a part of every day life.

"I think music is something that's everywhere. No matter where [people] go they're hearing music," March said. "There's rhythm everywhere. Language has melody. It's a part of our culture. And it's one of those things you're born with -- you're born with your voice and you're born with an instrument. It's just about becoming aware of that."

All children are welcome to join the School of Rock's many classes and even participate in the school's summer camp program.

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