Some time ago West Music began offering a program known as Weekend Warriors which originally was aimed at the “Baby Boomer” musicians. This was designed as a tool to get the guys and gals that at one time had played in a band an opportunity to play again. This is a nationwide program and has been very successful all over the country. What we found was that there were a huge amount of younger players that were interested in this type of program, so we decided to launch a similar type of program specifically for these young players. This program was named Rock Steady and we just finished our first 6-week session and celebrated with a concert from our first product of the program…a 5 piece band called Stereosurge!
The program is open for young players that have been playing their instruments for at least a year, but had never taken part in a band before. Rather than this being a private lesson on the instruments, we held private lessons on how to start, rehearse, promote and maintain a band. We set up a “backline of amplifiers and drums and furnished PA for them to use during rehearsal. All they had to do was bring their instruments and a desire to make some music.
When I first set out to develop this program, I wanted it to be more than just an opportunity to make noise. I truly wanted it to be an educational experience for these young players. So in addition to rehearsal time, we held some regular classroom sessions and discussed topics like “What to look for in a prospective band member,” “How to rehearse with your newly formed band,” “Once you’re ready to play, where do you play?” “How to make a Band Promo Packet” etc. etc. These sessions were followed by at least a 2 hour rehearsal.
We had 5 “rockers” take part in our first sessions…3 guitar players, a bass player and drummer. Three of the guys sang and they were pumped and ready to rock! The first song we worked on was Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The band (having never attempted to play alongside other musicians before) literally attacked the song. As I suspected they would be, the results were less than satisfactory, and a look of extreme bewilderment soon was apparent on 5 young faces. So we tried it again…a little better, but still pretty rough! Again…Hey…at least they started together this time… and again…and again…and again and each time it got a little better, but still had a long way to go before we could perform this in front anyone that wasn’t unarmed.
We talked about it a little, and I pointed out that the band had some positive things going for it. First, our drummer and bass player seemed to be working together very well… and the drummer seemed pretty solid, in other words the tempo seemed to hold real steady. Now all we needed to do was get the guitars to listen to what the foundation of our rhythm section was doing. We played it again, and the difference was like night and day. Each time we started the song, it got tighter. The look of bewilderment was soon replaced by broad smiles and “Rock Star” stances and we were off and running!
Each member was given CD’s and tablature of material they had chosen and had assignments to learn another song. The next session they learned The Ramones “Blitzkrieg Bop”. For the most part, they came prepared and it didn’t take much time at all for the tune to come together. You could tell that they were gaining confidence and I was proud of them.
The time just seemed to fly by us, and soon our 6 weeks were up. Now it was concert time. We set up in our West Music Conservatory and parents, friends, family members and teachers showed up to hear our finished product. The band had a set list of 7 songs…everything from Nirvana to Bob Dylan to Cream to The Kinks to The Ramones…and the guys were ready! It was their time to Rock…and Rock they did!!
Everyone in the crowd had huge smiles on their faces…you could feel the sense of pride in the air…the concert was a huge success. Parents, Grandparents, friends and neighbors were impressed…as they should have been. These kids worked hard and did a wonderful job. I felt like “proud Papa.”
So, our first session of “Rock Steady” is behind us and I want to personally thank Dylan Jeffrey, Joe Feldmann, Derrick Davis, Jacob Brendes and Nicholas Morris and their parents for making this the success that it was. The next session will start close to the end of October/early November…I can’t wait!!