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Rock Band: 101

The Jam Crib’s School of Rock teaches the finer points of playing in a band

By Michael Summers

michael_summers@fortwaynereader.com

Fort Wayne Reader

2008-07-07


Various scientific studies have expounded on the benefits of studying music, pointing out how learning to play an instrument can improve everything from hand-eye coordination to abstract reasoning skills. In fact, one 1998 study by the University of Muenster in Germany discovered that music lessons in early childhood actually enlarged parts of the brain.

And while improved reasoning and a giant brain are certainly good and noble reasons to take up music, most young musicians have another goal in mind — get your like-minded friends together and start a band!

Sometimes, it’s just that easy. Other times… well, let’s say your drummer turns every song into breakneck speed metal, or your bass player doesn’t understand why he has to listen to the drummer, or your guitarist thinks “improvisation” means the rest of the band should just play the same chord sequence over and over while they solo… It’s enough to send any fledgling musician back to the basement with their CD player and a pair of headphones.

Tim Coffel, owner of the Jam Crib — a music rehearsal facility at 3319 North Anthony — tries to focus that lack of direction with School of Rock, a program that essentially takes young musicians through the process of learning to play in a band. “Typically, for student musicians outside a school band program, there is really no formal training out there for teaching students to play as a group, especially in the popular forms of music,” he says. “Usually, you’re taking guitar lessons, you head out to your garage or down in the basement with your friends and see if you can make something happen. But at that age, it’s like the blind leading the blind.”

In the School of Rock, students are divided up into three age brackets — 9-11; 12-14; and 15-17. Coffel says it can take a few weeks to assemble a class. The groups are typically comprised of a drummer, a couple guitar players, a bass player, keyboards (if available), and a vocalist. Coffel and the other instructors try to match skill levels and musical tastes in putting the bands together. The ability to read music is not required.

The Jam Crib also offers private, individual instruction in guitar, keyboards, bass and drums; the School of Rock is a supplement to that. “We think it’s essential that a student gets their private instruction, but it’s also essential they have some place to apply what they’ve learned,” Coffel says. “We tried to make this very affordable and accessible to as many students as possible.”

After forming, the groups meet with an instructor once a week for about an hour and learn the ins and outs of playing music as an ensemble. “Once we have the group set, and a set meeting time, then they just kind of progress throughout the year,” says Coffel. “As they get performance ready, we’ll have them do recitals and showcase events here at the Jam Crib on our stage.” They typically play three or four special events throughout the year.

Five of the classes will play at the School of Rock Showcase at the Three Rivers Festival on Monday, July 1. The show starts at 6 P.M. at the Meijer’s Event Tent.

Coffle says that in general the students are quite eager and pick up fast. “I just think a lot of times they don’t know where to start, and how to critically evaluate themselves. The bottom line is, they don’t know what they’re doing yet.”

Matt Tackett, a guitarist and instructor at School of Rock who has done stints in The Orange Opera and several other local bands, says it can be tough sometimes when you’ve got four kids with electric instruments and another kid with drum sticks all in the same room, but he echoes Coffle in saying the students are eager to learn. The one particular thing Tackett says he finds himself teaching almost all the bands, at whatever age group or skill level, is how to listen to each other and interact. “I come from an improv background, so I try to push that a little more,” he says. This doesn’t necessarily mean flights of musical fancy — some songs and genres don’t call for that. “I try to get them to take the time to listen thoroughly, to hear what each other is doing and to maybe come up with their own arrangements.”

Plans are already underway at the Jam Crib to expand the School of Rock into other genres. Coffel says they’re in the planning stages of putting together a School of Jazz program, and they’re also in discussion with some foundations that work with at risk youth who don’t have the money for instruments or training. “Music is a constructive thing,” Coffel explains. “There’s just so many things that go along with learning to play an instrument and learning to perform. It takes discipline and focus to learn, and develops concentration and self-esteem.”

In addition to the School of Rock at the Three Rivers Festival, that evening will also include a Battle of the Bands between seven young groups, all Jam Crib members and all playing original music. Competing are Artificial Red, Faultline, Faust Mortis, For Glory And Empire; Forgetting Yesterday; Groove Shelter; and Zephaniah.

For more information on School of Rock or the Jam Crib, visit www.jamcrib.com or call (260) 422-1654.

School of Rock and the Youngblood Music Showcase
Featuring, from the Jam Crib School of Rock: Lead Foot; Tiny Mushrooms; Crazy Raisins; T.H.E. Band; Rocknophobia
The Youngblood Music Showcase, featuring: Artificial Red; Faultline; Faust Mortis; For Glory And Empire; Forgetting Yesterday; Groove Shelter; Zephaniah
Monday, July 14, 6 p.m.
The Meijer Event Tent at the Three Rivers Festival
Admission: $5.

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