Rock Star 101

At School of Rock's newest location in Montclair, children can learn music through the prism of classic rock.

Courtesy of Charlie Homo.

Music lessons for kids can evoke a combination of whining, foot-dragging, and creative excuses for missing practice. Enter School of Rock, a nationwide music-academy-gone-electric that has planted itself firmly in the Garden State with nine schools and counting, including the newest location in Montclair (plus headquarters in Teaneck). Instead of “Hot Cross Buns,” kids learn “Rocking in the Free World” and “Smoke on the Water”; instead of a recital solo, they play a gig as a band.

“I took lessons in the back of a crusty old music store and practiced on the edge of my bed,” says Florham Park resident Mark Biondi, the school’s national director of operations. “I didn’t know where to play or what to rehearse. At School of Rock, we put on shows to teach music. The kids are engaged, and they want to keep coming back and getting better.”

Students range in age from 7 to 18, teachers are veteran musicians themselves, and instruments include keyboard, guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. Caileen Machard—an 18-year-old guitarist, keyboardist, and vocalist who attends the Monmouth school—loves the atmosphere. “I’d still be a computer geek without School of Rock,” she says. “It’s really great for making friends, and I’m a thousand times more confident.”

Are Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen de rigueur in the Jersey curriculum? “We do a Jersey Rock show,” confirms Biondi, noting that it includes the likes of Gaslight Anthem and the Misfits, too. “Jersey absolutely has a rich music history.”

(Note: The schools are not affiliated with the 2003 Jack Black movie School of Rock, but they don’t mind the free promotion.)

Visit schoolofrock.com for open houses and performance nights.

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