At some point during their childhood, almost every kid dreams about being in a rock band and becoming a rock star. Here in Davis, a rock-and-roll program called RockBand University gives kids the chance to fulfill their rock star dreams.
The program was started in 2008 by Mike Clements, a guitar instructor at Watermelon Music. He heard about a rock band camp that a music store in Washington, D.C. used to have and was inspired to start his own program in Davis.
After a few ups and downs, he was finally able to start it in the summer of 2009, and it was a massive hit. Parents wanted to keep the program going after the first summer session, so Clements gathered up his resources and RockBand University was formed.
Clements says that the main thing Rock Band University teaches the students, ages 10 to 18, is how to play in a band with other people. They learn about stage presence and musical equipment and techniques.
“A lot of my students couldn’t get themselves into bands and it was hard for them to be motivated without something like this hanging over them, and now that I’ve seen the kids in band, I know it was a good idea,” Clements said.
Each session in RockBand University lasts for six weeks. During those weeks the students are matched up based on their musical abilities and put into bands. During each session, they are expected to learn three to four songs, which they perform in a concert at the end of the six weeks.
The 2011 spring session concert was held last Sunday at the Brunelle Theater.
This concert is the most exciting part of the program for many of the students. That was certainly the case for students Tazio Capozzola and Sam Goodman.
“This is the best experience I’ve had, especially getting to play on stage. It’s really cool,” Capozolla said.
Capozolla and Goodman, along with another friend, formed a band that they named Tanak. All three of the band members are 12 years old. They have been a part of RockBand University for two to four years and have been playing their respective instruments for much longer. They had six weeks to practice the three songs they performed at the concert.
A unique aspect of this program is that the kids have a lot of say in what songs they choose to perform. Clements and fellow instructor Evan Daly give them suggestions and recommendations for which songs would work for each specific band. However, the kids have a lot of freedom in choosing songs. Clements said that his main guideline for songs is that they fit in the allotted time; other than that kids can pretty much choose anything they like.
Julie VanDam, whose son Carson Janke performed on Sunday, said she feels it is very important to let the kids decide what they want to play.
“So much of their life consists of other people telling them what to do, so this is a way to keep them interested in music and motivate them. Performing is very confidence-building, which is important,” VanDam said.
A big part of the experience of RockBand University is learning how to have a rocking stage presence. For many of the kids, it helped to have their family and friends in the audience cheering them on while they performed.
“I have a bunch of family that came to watch me today. I get to show them my talent and all the stuff I’ve learned, which is really cool,” said Goodman.
Parents were equally thrilled to be able to watch their children perform and see all their hard work pay off.
“I obviously love watching my son but it’s really fun to watch all the other bands as well, there are a lot of talented kids,” VanDam said.
Almost all parents feel that the program has greatly increased their children’s musical abilities and given them more confidence with their musical talent. This session was the first time parents Dianna and Mark Jenson have been involved with RockBand University. They have been very impressed with the program so far and have seen progress in their son Bryan’s musical talent and range.
“Our son’s been able to learn some music he wouldn’t have picked up on his own. He’s been playing Green Day songs, which he loves, but he wouldn’t have started playing them on his own,” Mark Jenson said.
A big reason for the program’s success is the dedication of the instructors. Clements states that the direct student-teacher access he gets out of the program is the best part for him.
“There are a lot of teachable moments that pop up and I capitalize on every one of them. Seeing the kids come out of their shells and grooving around a little more, getting more creative, just giving them a little more confidence all around is the best thing about the program,” Clements said.
This program is geared for any kids with musical experience who are curious about what it is like to be a part of a rock band. RockBand University is accepting applications for their next session until April 26, and the session starts on May 1. For more information on signing up and the program in general, visit rockbanduniversity.com/.
PAAYAL ZAVERI can be reached at email@example.com