.School Rocks

Wanna learn how to rock? The North Bay offers a veritable “greatest hits” line up of places to learn.

School of Rock, a national franchise, emphasizes rock. Students start from day one by joining an in-school band to learn through playing together. The chain has several locations with local owners, including San Rafael and Santa Rosa.

“It’s kind of like sports. You’re not going to practice baseball alone. You can do some drills and such, but you’re going to join a team to learn how, right?” said Josh Walden, owner and general manager of School of Rock Santa Rosa. “So same thing here; we put you right in a band.”

music in the park san jose
music in the park san jose

Located in a black walled space that will be familiar to anyone who has rented a rehearsal studio, School of Rock Santa Rosa just feels like a place for bands.

“The cool thing is, our music community is a very inclusive, welcoming, comfortable community for beginners,” said Walden. After being nervous for the first couple of rehearsals, beginners “realize it doesn’t matter if you can make a mistake; nobody cares. You go home and you practice, and you try to come back a little bit better next week.”

Learning at School of Rock starts with a free trial lesson. Students get a tour of the studio and some one-on-one time with instructors. Based on evaluation of their level, the student either goes into the beginner program or the core program. In either case, they join a band.

For those interested in the technical side of the artform, and the professional opportunities that can come with it, a new sound engineer workshop series is kicking off in Sebastopol.

Designed with young adults in mind, or others with some experience in sound engineering and ready for the next step, Sanctuary Sound is trying something new—a hands-on weekend in September at its recording studio just outside of Occidental.

“[The approach] is great because you can just ask questions. Like ‘Yo, I don’t know how to compress well,’ or ‘I’m not doing well with stereo imaging,’ all this kind of stuff,” said studio owner and engineer Matt McDavid. The chance to ask really specific questions helps get tracks radio ready.

“I’ll do all the production and recording one day, and then we’ll have a guest mixer coming and do the mixing for the second day,” he said. The second instructor helps students learn to look at problems from different perspectives.

“Once we’ve got all that fun nerdy stuff out of the way, we’re going to get into production. How to produce an act, what it takes to wrangle five people in a room and get everyone feeling good,” said McDavid. “Keep that vibe going.”

Meanwhile, Play It Forward, a Sonoma County non-profit, helps to connect youth students with scholarships for one-on-one lessons and donated instruments. Founded by local music teachers, the program is continually evaluating how best to provide for the needs of the underserved.

“As a non-profit, we’re just trying to raise funds to find where there’s need and build programs around that,” said Play It Forward cofounder, Nick Simmons. Many of the programs supported by Play It Forward are in schools. But funds are also reserved for the scholarship and donations programs. While Play It Forward can’t guarantee that every student will be accepted, “anyone is welcome to apply on our website,” Simmons noted. That website is pifmusic.com.

The group’s mission statement reads in part, the community “nurtures the human need to relate, create, and inspire together.” Teachers and local residents make music accessible to students. It is a “positive program [that] inspires learning and playing for all types of students and musicians.”

In Napa, the Napa School of Music offers a well-rounded music education, with classes in Garage Band 101, A Cappella, Music Together toddler movement classes, as well as summer rock band camps and beginners camps for singing, guitar, ukulele and violin.

At the camps, which take children from ages 7 to 15, kids with prior experience on their instrument learn to play in a rock band, write one or two original songs, record their song and create their own music video. All instruments are accepted.


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