Teaching Milwaukee Kids How to Make Rock 'N Roll

Jul 2, 2014

The School of Rock in Shorewood wants to make sure rock ‘n roll continues, so it trains kids as young as first grade how to make the music.

Learning to jam
Credit Scott Wise

When you enter the school on Oakland Avenue, you don’t see posters of Rock ‘N Roll legends but rather snapshots of its students, hanging on the wall.

Ten-year-old Michael Stotler and nine-year-old Andie Andraca are in one of the music rooms, taking guitar lessons from Nicholas Berg. Despite occasional stumbles, the students are in perfect sync when describing what they’ve learned so far.

"We've learned five major cords, three minor cords, e-minor pentatonic scale, hammer ons, pull-offs, 15s solos, Happy Birthday," the two say.

"It's not your kind of standard stuffy lessons of just scales and a lot of theory. We really want kids to be playing music with each other," according to Berg.

While he specializes in guitar and keyboard, other instructors teach kids vocals and drums.

Nearly 70 budding rockers are enrolled, some as young as age six. Rock Marasco says he opened the school last October, with one goal in mind.

"Preserving and growing the future of Milwaukee's rock and roll culture with these young kids; whether they be six years old or 18 years old," Marasco says.

The School of Rock franchise started in 1998, in Philadelphia, and it has spread to over 100 locations. It offers a variety of intense week-long crash courses for aspiring rockers. For instance, one features Beatles’ music and another, Led Zeppelin's. There are even camps that teach how to write and record songs.

Michael says he wants to be like his father.

"My dad was in a band when he was younger. I wanna be in a band like him and I also wanna do a couple other things. So, it's one of my priorities that I have to do before I die," the 10-year-old says.

You might guess Michael has other priorities, being dressed in a sports outfit during this, the season of World Cup soccer.

"A good age to be a professional soccer player is like 30 and then, when I get too old for professional soccer, I'll just be a robotic engineer," Michael says.

Nine-year-old Andie has aspirations of her own.

"I'm going to be on Broadway. No. I'm going to be an actress slash waitress," Andie says.

She admits, guitar was not her first instrument of choice.

"I was originally just a piano and vocal person. But then I switched up to guitar because we didn’t have a guitar or bass player. So, me and one other person stepped up to do guitar," the nine-year-old says.

School founder Rock Marasco might be pleased to hear the kids’ responses.

"Our slogan is, which is our goal, is to teach kids of all ages to rock on stage and in life. So, not only do we teach them music skills and signing skills and performance skills, but we also teach them teamwork, self confidence and hopefully skills they will have the rest of their life,"  Marasco says.

Just like any other school, the School of Rock holds exams at the end of each week-long camp: performances. The latest featured the house band playing at Summer Fest on Tuesday.