The School of Rock thrusts its young apprentices into a propelling perpetuate motion to future musical triumph. That's one way the current SOR co-music director and instructor Brian Liebman, 42, would describe their work at the musical facility.
Alongside other co-director, Jessica Guthas, 26, facility owner Laura Sintes, 43, and multi-skilled music instructors, the School of Rock Coral Gables out of the 260 across the world, is an enormously rapid growing one in terms of foot traffic, potential students and dedicated artists.
The School of Rock is a music school that specializes in teaching kids, teenagers and adults the tips and tricks to learning how to play instruments, sing, and create music. The school offers a plethora of tutoring sessions in lessons in playing the guitar, the bass, the piano and keyboard, the drums, and singing, with percussion on its way to the forefront.
Upon applying, students get what studio coordinator Savannah calls a ‘swag bag’ containing SOR merchandise like ear protection for when the kid is playing their instrument, a pic for guitar players, a collectable water bottle, a lanyard and more. It also contains information on how to navigate the Pipe13 app. Pipe13 is used by the facility for all session scheduling. Parents can book sessions themselves as well. You can also get feedback on the student’s progress, whether they’ve hit the note, and give you tips, kind of like homework.
“It's a really good way for them to get into it at home, it's home learning they wanna do." said Savannah.
An estimated 75 students are Coral Gables residents, that's half the student populace, and the numbers of students are vastly growing.
Brian Liebman, a guitar and bass teacher, and Florida International University graduate with a masters in Music Education, explains in his terms the facility's main goal while teaching their students.
Liebman compares his way of teaching to the old way of teaching.
“You see the old way of doing guitar lessons used to have to wait maybe a year. You used to have to learn all the strings, all the notes, all the stuff, and then somebody says, “oh well maybe you can come into band.” After like a year, well we don't do that. We start band like day two. So basically you can come in, you can take a trial lesson, we’re gonna teach you how to play power cords, and then you get enough basic knowledge that you can jump into a band class the next day.”
Liebman proved this by teaching me a riff of a song on one of his electric guitars in a private one-on-one lesson. Placing just two of my fingers on numbered guitar strings and repeatedly moving my hand up and down the guitar onto certain placements, I have just recreated a Lenny Kravitz rock song in less than 15 minutes.
Through trial and explanation, Liebman expressed the best way in teaching children, who may have shorter focus ranges than adults, the vast mechanisms to learn an instrument. To just jump right into the mix, and not waste time with boring repetition and years of a categorical “caste system”. I was excited to play the electric guitar my first go around, rather than learn all the tips and tricks of an acoustic guitar, just to fall prey to the boredom of the same old before even getting the chance to level up to its voltaic successor. And playing a song with Liebman made me feel like an old-time guitar player, like a professional.
This is how many of the lessons are taught. The teachers, whom many have Bachelors and Masters degrees in Music Education and Music Performance, are hired for their vast knowledge in the practice of more than one instrument, teaching different levels of classes.
Fernando Vasquez, 13, a student who's part of the performance program, one of the highest ranks at the school, trains in the electric guitar in a one-on-one session.
“One of my friends told me about it, and it sounded really cool.”
“It’s really fun.”
Roberto Giorgetti, 22, Vaquez’s guitar instructor shares his love for music.
“I couldn't even walk yet and I was already banging on stuff.”
Giorgetti gives a little more insight on the facility’s environment.
“These kids get a sense of community with these lessons, these kids come here and they want to be here. They’re in an environment that makes them wanna be themselves. “
Even expressing his enthusiasm and trust in the school.
“I wish I could go back to 12-years-old and join this school.”
Giorgetti is currently studying at Berkley’s online music program for his degree in film scoring; creating music for film.
Classes are offered for all age groups. The Rookies class is reserved for young children who don’t know exactly what they’re calling in music is, but have an interest in it nonetheless. This scene is comparable to that of an educational daycare. A great after school, 1-hour class for the little ones to play with self-made miracas, pianos, guitars, and sing while the parent grocery shops, finishes up work, or hits the L.A. Fitness right across the street from the SOR. Once the student has chosen what their talent is, they move on to Rock 101.
Rock 101 is a class for all-time beginners who have never participated in music before ages 12 and under. Here, the kids have chosen their vice and train 45 minutes in private lessons once a week with an additional hour and a half band class. These lessons focus more on private tutoring rather than the daycare, multiple-students sessions in The Rookies classes. The teachers focus on building the student’s specific skill in their instrument of choice.
Rock 201 classes are composed of teenage beginner students. These kids get to learn on a singular level. Adult classes are taken either early in the morning or late at night to fit their working schedules as well as not interfere with their kids' lessons.
When it comes to opportunities, Performance bands are great tools to expand the kids’ horizons.
The Performance program holds themed shows every 3-4 months where kids have the chance to sign up to perform in a public showcase. The School of Rock has recently held a show in Wynwood in early January. Everybody has to be on a certain level for this group, this is why performance program training is for 3 hour once a week. The themed shows varied from 80s, 70s, grunge, British rock, punk, The Beatles, Green Day and many more. The upcoming season is January through May and for this season, the sounds of motown is the theme.
The All-Stars national program is an opportunity amongst most. A tier above the already window of opportunity that is the Performance program, the All-Stars program is a 10-city summer tour performance program kids get to audition for. All 260 facilities submit their top students through a 3-hour audition process, video submissions and if they win, the kid is flown out to each city to perform. Each year only ninety kids are picked to travel for the broadening opportunity of networking, showcasing their talent, and creating great memories.
The already inclusive music school broadening their aspects and recognizing all forms of rock, including women in rock and roll, Liebman shares his plans for other upcoming shows.
“Next Fall we’re gonna do the show “Women Who Rock”... we’re going to open it up to be a two day show.” said Liebman. “We’re 9-10 months away from that and they’re already talking about it.”
“We really try to offer them a really different and a broad experience of learning music. This way we can prevent being a little bit stagnant, and the kids get to pick which group and theme they want to do. It’s fun all around.” Liebman added.
In a unique twist, The School of Rock holds different themed music rooms. I learned to play the electric guitar in Liebman’s Alex Grey room. There was also a Metalica room, Women of Rock room, a Guns n Roses room, and a Pink Floyd to name a few others. And the rooms’ artwork would match that of the theme. From a grunge look in the drums room, to a psychedelic look in the electric guitar room, to an 60s-era look in the piano room, the entire facility screams out rock and roll truly of each musical age.
“Rock and Roll is sort of like a jigsaw puzzle. When you start out you throw all the pieces on the table. And then they all scatter and you build a frame, and then you start putting the pieces together. And by the time you get to that, you've got the whole jigsaw puzzle figured out.” There's always new people coming and new people moving up to performance. With their students wearing School of Rock t-shirts and a Wall of Fame filled with polaroid photographs of the young students, the facility is flourishing to great lengths. “It really is amazing,” said Liebman.