Hinsdale school seeks to train rockers
Ashley Haggard, 11, sings "That'll be the Day" by Buddy Holly. The School of Rock in Hinsdale teaches rock and roll songs to young people. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Address: 116 S. Washington St., Hinsdale
For students: age 8 to 18
Lessons: Guitar, bass, keyboard, drums and vocals, plus other instruments if a student is interested.
School staff can: tune and repair instruments and advise parents who want to purchase instruments
Phone: (630) 936-4742
Updated: November 13, 2012 11:10AM
HINSDALE — From Motown to Justin Bieber, “there’s a place for everything.”
That’s what Hinsdale’s School of Rock general manager Patrick McKenna teaches.
The music school, which opened in April, offers individual lessons, band coaching and performance programs.
Rock 101 teaches students the fundamentals of playing the instrument of their choice in one 45-minute private lesson and one 90-minute group jam session per week.
“We find the method that works for the student,” McKenna said.
Some kids learn better simply by watching and mimicking their instructor, he said. So, individual lesson rooms have matching instruments for the teacher and the students, including two drum sets.
“For Rock 101, we choose music that has a smaller learning curve,” McKenna said. “So in a matter of weeks, sometimes days, they are playing a group session.”
The fun of playing together motivates the students more than playing alone for an instructor, and thus they learn faster, McKenna said. The students must have their individual parts down pat, however, note by note, before the instructor lets them join a jam session.
McKenna does not accept the notion that good musicians are just naturally talented.
“There’s maybe 1 percent of 1 percent out there who have unbelievable natural gifts and can buy a guitar and an hour later are playing,” he said.
For everyone else, it requires hard work and practice.
The children realize this when they play alongside each other.
“They can look to their left and to their right and think, ‘I remember when he was sort of struggling and now he can do it.’ Or they see, ‘I started with Johnny and now Johnny is blowing me out of the water.’”
When Johnny tells his fellow student, “I’ve been practicing like crazy,” McKenna said it’s more convincing than when an instructor or parents remind the child to practice.
The school hires “young and hip” working musicians as instructors, because “that translates to the students,” McKenna said.
For example, Chris Faller, who teaches a variety of instruments and vocals at the school, has toured with numerous bands across the country. Instructor Eric Hehr performed at Lollapalooza and other venues, recorded television commercials, and has had his songs featured on television shows.
“I’d have a lot less headaches if I had people who didn’t tour working for me,” McKenna said. “My job would be easier, but it would be a lot less inspiring.”