Kids young and old have a new way to rock in Gowanus. The School of Rock, which has more than a hundred locations around the world, opened a new space last month at 327 Douglass Street, and they’re offering up performance-based lessons to local children with a beat in their hearts and an urge to get up on stage.
We spoke with owner, general manager, and professional drummer Mike Addesso about what makes the program unique, how his own background in music influences his teaching, whether The Beatles or The Rolling Stones are the better band, and more. Plus, he’s got a special offer for Park Slope Stoop readers!
Park Slope Stoop: What’s the difference between this music program and some of the other ones out there?
Mike Addesso: School of Rock is very much about performance, about getting students to come out of their shell and perform, to learn the balance of tapping into and spotlighting their own talents, while staying in line with the teamwork of the band. We don’t put limits on what kids can learn, with the results being that they end up getting really good!
We get kids playing music right away, learning the techniques and technicalities as they go. We find that when kids are able to study music in a fun environment, actually play songs they know, and see quick results, this boosts confidence and excitement about learning.
Programs such as our Performance Program set us apart, where kids rehearse a full show each season and then perform it at a live venue in front of friends, family, and strangers at the end of each season. Right now we are working on our British Invasion show, which will feature music from The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Who, and The Kinks. For the kids who get really good in our Performance Program, we can nominate them for School of Rock’s AllStar Program, where after a nationwide audition process, the AllStars embark on a summer tour, complete with tour busses and multiple live shows throughout the country.
Lastly, in addition to individual private music instruction on guitar, bass, vocals, keyboards, and/or drums, students also learn how to jam with their peers in a weekly practice session. We also have a Guest Professor Series, which gets legendary musicians in the door to teach special workshops to our students.
What kind of kids do you think School of Rock is best for? What do you hope students will get out of it?
I think music reaches everybody. All types of kids can grow with our programs. They are about learning music of course, but most importantly in the process they help build confidence, social skills, and teamwork. I can’t tell you how many experiences I’ve witnessed where a child has completely transformed and come out of their shell during one session. Overall, I want kids to have fun learning to play music, feel free, and make some like-minded friends in the process.
How did you get interested in music as a kid?
I always related to music, as most kids do. It’s incredible to feel music through your body. I started studying music at a young age because it was fun. It was something I always looked forward to. As I got older I started taking it more seriously, and started to play in rock bands with friends, joined the school orchestra, marching band, jazz band, and school musicals. Performing felt so natural to me. I then went on to study music professionally at Berklee College of Music. This led me to where I am today: Helping kids find their voice and perform for their community.
What was the first song you ever learned how to play?
As a drummer the first rock song I performed live was 25 or 6 to 4 by Chicago.
How do you think your own music lessons growing up influence your work with School of Rock — or has performing with touring bands played more of a role in your work?
Both performing in bands and music lessons growing up have played a huge role in my work with the School of Rock. It’s all necessary and goes hand-in-hand.
The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
This is not a fair question!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? And what’s your favorite piece of advice for new music students?
Listen to as many styles of music as possible, and learn from each. Even if you don’t like it, take a listen and chances are you might find something interesting and completely inspiring.
Don’t be afraid to mess up. Just keep playing!
Anything else you’d like neighbors to know?
We welcome all levels and have programs for all ages, including an Adult Program. Throughout the year we offer special workshops, camps, and events. We also host some pretty awesome birthday parties!
School of Rock is located at 327 Douglass Street, near 4th Avenue, 347-844-9363. For a limited time, they’re offering a free trial lesson to all Park Slope Stoop readers — just tell them you heard about the school here!
All photos via School of Rock