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It's time to go back to school

July 7, 2010

Not the regular kind of school, mind you, but it’s time to head over to Cascade Locks and see the kids from the School of Rock.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You, just like I did, immediately thought of the movie from a few years back, “School of Rock.” Which, by the way, has one of the most classic first scenes in a movie, ever.

I mean, it’s been a while since I’ve seen the movie, but to this day, I can still see Mr. Black standing up on stage, signaling to the “sound-guy” from ten feet away, that he needs to turn up his stage monitors, because apparently the full Marshall Stack amplifier he’s playing through is NOT loud enough to be heard over the roar of the non-existent crowd.

So, if we’re not talking about the movie “School of Rock,” then what exactly is going on here?

School of Rock, as I’m learning, is a music camp that has schools in several states, including Oregon. The best students are given a chance to be in an All-Star Band, and then the band embarks on a summer tour.

And too me, that sounds like a lot of fun.

But wait, there’s more. The show is being billed as a re-make of the now famous 1985 Live Aid event.

Now, I guess you can pretty much date me for this, but I do remember watching this concert on the TV, or, more specifically, the MTV. (And the MTV, back then, was only for music videos and music news. I have no idea what it is now, but I probably wouldn’t recognize it.)

And yes, I remember watching it – and wishing I was there. It was quite an event – the US portion was in Philadelphia, and I think a concert was held simultaneously in the UK. I remember looking at the two crowds – the UK crowd was completely calm and organized, which is quite a feat for something like 70,000 people.

The US crowd definitely seemed a bit more animated, and I think they had to cool the crowd off in the first 100 rows with water hoses.

Looking back, this concert was quite an event. I mean, not only did bands like Led Zeppelin “reunite” for a few songs, but musicians like Phil Collins were playing the UK portion of the show, and then getting on the Concord jet – flying to Philly – and playing the US show.

To play with bands like Led Zeppelin.

Could you imagine having that penciled in on your calendar?

Now, I don’t think the School of Rock has access to Concord jets and sound equipment that could play to crowds of 100,000, but my bet is that these talented teens are thrilled to play for any crowd, and I hope you go support them.

Now, before I leave you with a short interview with the School of Rock promoters, I realize that you’re just dying to know one thing.

Jim, what are you going to wear to the concert?

Well, I’m telling ya, all this talk of 1985, and concerts, and rock music, and Live Aid? Are you kidding? Do you know how many ticket stubs I have from the 80s? I still have those, you know.

But there’s one thing I don’t have anymore, and it’s killing me.

I don’t have any of my concert T-shirts.

I swear, if one of those relics appeared in my closet today, I’d put it on in a second and head over to the show.

Besides, the shirt would probably still fit.

School of Rock presents a benefit concert at Cascade Locks Marine Park for the Cascade Locks Food Bank on Friday, July 9, at 7 p.m.

Interview with Angela Thomas

1. Let's start with a few basics - where is the school located, how many kids are touring for this summer's show, and how many weeks of (camp?) are required before kids are ready to hit the stage?

Our Portland School of Rock is located at 1440 SE Hawthorne Blvd.

We have 26 students participating in this year's tour.

Our students rehearse year round in our program performing in various shows. We select the hardest working students and they perform in an Allstars tour every summer. They get together a few days before the tour starts and have several days of intensive rehearsals.

2. I take it that the program is for younger kids. To them, most rock must be pretty new to them, even though most of the music is probably older than the kids. What is it about rock music that draws kids to your camp (instead of pop or hip hop)?

Pop and Hip Hop are great... But Rock and roll is way more fun to perform! There's nothing like playing a show in front of a packed house, with screaming guitars running through Marshall stacks, booming bass, and thunderous drums. It is powerful stuff, and other genres don't have nearly the same power in a live setting.

3. I watched that video on your website (the queen song) and I must say, these kids have practiced! I mean, I can tell when people are playing their instruments - it's refreshing not to see lip-synching. How many hrs. per day are devoted to practice, and who are they learning from?

They practice a lot, usually a few hours a day on their own and 3 hours a week (or more) in rehearsals. They learn from our School of Rock staff, who are real rock musicians who are great at what they do, and have tons of rock cred. Many of our staff are veterans of national bands who have toured and released their own records.

4. What do the kids say they like best about the camp - after all the hard work of touring is done for the summer?

I'd say that the friendships that are formed are the biggest take away for them. It's great to see the community that is formed.

5. Do kids keep in touch after the camp? Has anyone gone on to work in the music business (that you know of)?

Yes, our students often travel to see their fellow Allstars in other cities. We are a community that spans the whole country.

Our students have performed with many legendary artists including the following. Perry Ferrel (Jane's Addiction), Frank Black (The Pixies), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam), Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), and many others. Also, many of our graduates have gone on to perform with artists, such as Adrian Belew (King Crimson) and Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

6. When I first heard of the School of Rock event, I must admit, the movie "School of Rock" was the first thing I thought of. So, which came first, your camp, or the movie?

We came first! We've been around since 1998 and have spent the past 12 years inspiring kids to rock on stage, and in life.

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