No matter how good your soloing is in your bedroom with the amp volume turned up almost to 1, it’s nothing compared to the feeling of playing just one song with a full band, everybody pulling together perfectly, with the amps up to test the rehearsal room’s soundproofing. It doesn’t matter whether they’ve never touched an instrument or they’ve practiced for years, School of Rock takes any kid between the ages of 7 and 18, places them with other students at their skill level, then they start playing music as a band. Not only that, but their teachers are professional musicians who have played for years, touring and recording albums. There’s never been a more motivating or exhilarating method of teaching music.
“Since we’re performance-based, that’s really at the heart of everything we do,” says Anne Dills, co-founder of School of Rock Hinsdale. “One of the things I love most is the camaraderie and support that even the older kids show for the younger kids. It’s really unique. I don’t know if I’ve seen that anywhere else. With sports teams, everything is segregated by age. In School of Rock, everyone is cheering each other on. It’s so different to the old methodology of learning music, where you take lessons so you can have a recital. We have a saying—“We don’t teach music to put on shows, we put on shows to teach music.”
For young rockers who are just starting out, School of Rock has Rock 101. There, the student is familiarized with the fundamentals of their instrument and gear, and they learn songs during one private lesson per week alone with their instructor, as well as an hour-and-a-half rehearsal on a separate night with the rest of their new bandmates as they learn to play songs as a group. Rock 101 not only gets kids playing right away, it’s gets them playing as a group. The program culminates with Rock 101 groups opening for the Performance Program groups at a School of Rock show.
The Performance Program is the next step after Rock 101. In addition to continually developing students’ skills with increasingly complex material, the Performance Program teaches them the finer points of playing live, such as dealing with their gear, switching in and out, and sound checking—essentially the office etiquette of rocking for a living. Once they’ve played a few shows in the Performance Program and proven their dedication, they can audition for School of Rock’s House Band.
The House Band is essentially their public relations delta squad, playing outreach events, rocking charity shows, and serving as the go-to interview subjects when the media comes calling. The top-tier opportunity for devoted School of Rockers is a doozy. Every year, kids from every School of Rock in the nation are selected to send in audition tapes for the School of Rock All Stars three-week tour. A total of 85 kids are selected to play on either their East Coast, West Coast, or Midwest tour, traveling in a professional tour bus, playing shows every night in legendary venues like The Whisky a Go Go in L.A., B.B. King’s Blues Club in New York, and the South by Southwest Music Festival. It’s every budding musician’s dream come true. “[Becoming an All Star] really just depends on the level that they’re at and how much progress they make,” says Anne. “We have an All Star right now who’s 10. That’s unusual, but he’s an incredible drummer. The kit’s bigger than he is; it’s amazing.”
School of Rock Hinsdale also offers outstanding summer camps from one to two weeks in length that are a great way to experience the magic before signing on for a longer program during the year. Again, there are programs for any experience level, with additional focuses available, including a program on original songwriting and another that encompasses both writing and recording.
“I have three young adult children and I always teased them growing up saying, ‘Growing up is really hard work,’” says Denise Dills, Anne’s mother as well as co-founder of School of Rock Hinsdale. “But I think it is. I don’t think there are a lot of places for kids to go during that tween to high school age that they see as something cool, something fun, but something constructive. If they can find one thing that they really love and that makes them feel good about themselves, it can get them over a lot of rough spots. You can see it in kids that are so shy when they come in the door, they barely make eye contact, and it’s just amazing to watch them gain confidence. It makes such
a difference in their lives.
School of Rock Hinsdale is located at 116 South Washington Street in Hinsdale. For more information, call 630-750-7625, or visit hinsdale.schoolofrock.com. This is Anne and Denise’s second School of Rock after their Naperville location, and they’re also currently opening one in Elmhurst