School of Rock

*Published on MBC Overtime

“Inspiring the world to rock on stage and in life”

Photo by MBC Reporter Jessica Bennett
Jacob Snow and Brandon Bihn rehearse for their next show. Photo by MBC Reporter Jessica Bennett.

School of Rock is a franchise, first developed in 1998, as a program to teach kids raw music skills and to give them experience as performers. The School of Rock branch in Mason, according to the assistant general manager Scott Higgins, exemplifies those qualities.

“It’s one thing to take your instrument home and play it,” Higgins said. “And that’s great, to practice and learn. But when you start performing and you’re interacting with everybody, something does happen with the music that’s just amazing. So it’s been a pretty wild journey for sure.”

 

“Music’s always been a huge part of my life”

The instructors at this facility are top-notch according to owner Tim Garry. Not only do they teach, but as experienced members of the musical community, they have some interesting stories to share. Like most of the students here, vocals instructor and show director Melissa Fairmount, guitar and drums instructor Lynn Beatty, and Higgins also have a love affair with music — one that began at childhood.

 

Harvard business to small business

The man behind the scenes, however, comes from a different background. Garry attended Harvard University and Harvard Business School in his younger years, not anticipating his current career in music.

 

“He’s why we’re all here”

According to Garry, the school has grown exponentially since it first opened in April 2012. Back then, it started out with only a few students; but as it has become more prominent in the Cincinnati music scene, this School of Rock now has around 150 members. Garry said he was first introduced to the School of Rock brand as a parent. And it affected his family with such a magnitude that Gary ended up opening a franchise here, where one of his sons even grew up to become an instructor for a year. The school’s two year anniversary just rolled around this month, and with the success achieved thus far, Garry said he has aspirations to open another school.

 

Living the dream 

Fairmount began her music career with The Murkins, establishing a legacy by becoming the first all-female band in Cincinnati.  Fairmount said she continues to be very active in the music scene as part of a punk-pop band called the Fairmount Girls, which has received many local accolades, such as Best Indie Band, Best New Band, Best Live Band, and Best album. It began 15 years ago, according to Fairmount, with a goal to have each individual pick up a brand new instrument and learn to play it. But even with so much exposure through The Murkins, The Fairmount Girls, and as a teacher in School of Rock, Fairmount said the learning never stops.

“With all that in mind we still practice twice a week, still try to figure music out,” Fairmount said. “There might just be a certain amount of notes but the way you play them, it’s all up to us.”

 

More than music

Garry and Mason High School freshman Jake Nelson talk about the performances, creativity, teamwork, and friendships at School of Rock, elements other than just music:

 

“It’s like family”

According to Fairmount and Mason High School senior Hayes Hiltenbeitel , being at School of Rock has created close-knits bonds between students and instructors.

Photo by MBC Reporter Jessica Bennett
Hiltenbeitel feeling the music during rehersal. Photo by MBC Reporter Jessica Bennett.

“The kids are fantastic,” Fairmount said. “It’s very special to me because not only are they very special kids, but we all have this really [big] love of music, and so it does create a family when you can see them every week. You know their highs and lows. You know what makes them happy and sad. And you just start to develop really great relationships with them.There’s nothing more intimate than when you play music with people. So that comes through a lot just because of the nature of the beast. You get to know each other pretty well when you’re crammed into a room for three hours and trying to work out stuff. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s easy. So you learn how to communicate. It just kinda turns into a family before you know it. And all of the teachers here feel that way — we all love the kids.”

Hiltenbeitel has also developed very strong relationships with his musical family at School of Rock. And with their support, he said he plans on pursuing a future in music. According to Hiltenbeitel, after graduation he’ll be working at Fairmount’s restaurant called ‘Lunchbox.’

According to Fairmount, she can relate to the kids and their aspirations when they come to School of Rock.

“Even as a youngster, I didn’t do soccer, I wasn’t a cheerleader, I was a fish out of water,” Fairmount said. “I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing in my spare time. But I loved listening to music. If we would have had [a School of Rock] when I was a kid who knows what would have happened. But it’s so cool that there’s an outlet for these guys to do what we did starting in our late 20s — these guys are already rocking it at age fifteen.”

 “Rock on”

School of Rock gets ready to perform at the Reds' Opening Day Parade. Photo contributed by School of Rock.
School of Rock gets ready to perform at the Reds’ Opening Day Parade. Photo contributed by School of Rock.

According to the instructors, School of Rock is different from a typical voice lesson in that it creates well-rounded musicians and gives kids opportunities of both recording music and performing live. For example, playing at Fountain Square and the Cincinnati Reds’ Opening Day Parade are just a few of the experiences here, and with those experiences — comes confidence. Although many people aspire to “make it” in the competitive music industry, the instructors have faith in their students’ abilities and so here, they share their wisdom:


Videography by MBC Reporter Breanne Gibb, Fernanda Hurtado.

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