School of Rock Louisville Encourages Music Lovers to Take the Stage
Photography Provided by JFHall Photography and JJHuff Photography
Melanie Scofield’s son, Carter, came to her when he was nine years old with a request. He wanted to learn to play guitar so Scofield enrolled him in a School of Rock camp in Chicago, an experience that served to be life-changing.
“Carter fell in love with the program and has been involved in it ever since,” says Scofield, whose background is in public relations and marketing.
The first School of Rock was launched in Philadelphia 25 years ago, then brought to major cities around the U.S. As the program’s popularity skyrocketed, it was organized into a franchise and grew in other markets. To date, 235 School of Rocks have opened in 10 different countries with a total of 35,000 kids enrolled around the world.
Being a huge music education arts advocate and lover of Louisville’s vibrant music scene, Scofield and her husband, Doug, knew the city was ripe for a School of Rock.
“I love to see music experiences available to all children because I’ve seen what it’s done for our son and many other children over the years,” Scofield says.
In October 2018, the husband-and-wife team opened School of Rock Louisville. With so many talented musicians in the area, the pair didn’t have trouble finding passionate, qualified teachers. Currently, they have a total of 10 instructors who teach guitar, drums, bass guitar, piano, keyboard and vocals.
For those who want to get started early, School of Rock offers Little Wing, a weekly group lesson for preschoolers. Rookies is also a weekly group lesson for 6- and 7-year-olds, designed to let young students explore various instruments. Most students enrolled in the program, however, participate in either Rock 101 (ages 8-13) or Performance (ages 8-18), School of Rock’s hallmark music program that combines a weekly private lesson with a weekly group rehearsal.
Some kids who first step foot inside School of Rock don’t have a clue how to play or know what they want to play. Others come in who have been playing with a school band or have been taking private lessons and are seeking that performance experience that School of Rock offers. One thing that seems to overlap all experiences is that when kids come to School of Rock, they quickly learn that they have found their tribe.
What makes this program unique is that it takes a performance-based approach to teaching music so while students receive private lessons, as they advance in the program, they also have group band practices. This method not only fosters friendships but also lets kids experience the joy of performing on stage for an audience. Scofield maintains that when kids learn in this way, they tend to stick with it.
“Sometimes when kids are only in lessons, they can hit a wall and get frustrated when something is difficult,” Scofield says. “This program keeps them energized and having fun so that they don’t get bored or frustrated. Plus, they tend to practice more because they’re working toward a goal of playing in a show.”
Scofield maintains that working toward an end goal is so important — otherwise, taking lesson after lesson can become monotonous.
“They feel like, ‘What’s the point?’” Scofield says. “It’s like doing batting practice over and over but never getting to play in a baseball game.”
Socially, this program is great in this technological day and age with so much of society interacting virtually rather than directly. Music, however, speaks a universal language.
“Kids have to put down their phones to connect musically,” Scofield adds. “Here, they’re developing meaningful relationships that can last a lifetime.”
Scofield has been pleased with how the Louisville community has embraced the School of Rock. They currently have more than 100 students enrolled and are still growing. Their adult program is popular as well.
“Why should the kids have all the fun, right?” asks Scofield, though she recognizes that parenthood, careers and other responsibilities pose challenges for adults who wish to explore their musical passions. That’s why School of Rock rocks.
“It’s hard for adults to find the time to schedule a rehearsal space or book a gig,” she says. “Here, all they have to do is show up, plug in and play. We do the rest.”
Scofield is thrilled to be in the heart of a city that offers such a wealth of musical opportunities for their students. Not only do students have the chance to play gigs in local establishments like the Blind Squirrel and Zanzabar, but for those students who crave additional performance time, they can audition for School of Rock’s House Band where they perform live shows at local rock venues throughout the year. Students who really love it may undergo a rigorous audition process to join the All-Star Show Team, a multi-city, country-wide music tour experience.
“Students have to be at a certain proficiency of playing and maturity to do those gigs,” says Scofield, noting the huge time commitment that comes with being an All-Star. “Not everybody wants to perform that much, but if this is their thing and they’re serious about pursuing music, they want to do it as much as possible.”
To add depth to the program, Scofield periodically invites musicians to speak and perform. For instance, actors from “Million Dollar Quartet,” a musical about a recording of an impromptu jam session involving Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, came in, as did The Kukes, a ukulele band. In addition, last spring, Dallas Schoo, the guitar tech for U2, who is originally from Louisville, stopped by School of Rock to share what he does and show off his collection of 20 guitars.
“He also showed the kids pictures of this huge computer tower he has to operate when he’s on stage,” Scofield says. “He’s like Oz behind the curtain, making the shows go smoothly.”
Scofield calls it a phenomenal experience.
“The guitar tech is a key member of any touring group, yet many people wouldn’t even know what that is,” Scofield says. “We’re always trying to bring these educational experiences to the kids so they can broaden their knowledge about careers in the music industry because, let’s be honest, unless they met Dallas Schoo, who would say, ‘I think I’ll become a guitar tech’?”
Everything they do at School of Rock circles back to the core of the program, which is a profound love of music. The more practice the students get with live performances, the more ease they feel on stage. For instance, Scofield shares how recently their family went to a jazz improv night where her son, Carter, felt right at home taking the stage and falling in with the other musicians.
“He didn’t blink an eye because when he’s playing, he’s part of this community that speaks his language,” Scofield says. “That’s what we’re working towards with our kids. As they perform, they gain confidence and composure, eloquence even.”
She goes on to say that these experiences help them outside of the realm of music as well. Scofield has watched, time and again, shy students enter the program who are unsure if they want to get up in front of a crowd. Before long, however, they are on stage killing it.
“We are building character, not just musicians,” she adds.
School of Rock Louisville is located at 12001 Shelbyville Rd., Suite 102 in the Mid-town Shopping Center. To learn more, call 502-540-8765 or visit locations.schoolofrock.com/louisville.