By Tom Stankard
Did you know the movie “School of Rock” was inspired by The Paul Green School of Rock Music?
The Paul Green School of Rock Music is a music program that gives kids ages 8-18, no mater what skill level they are, the chance become a rock star. When they’re ready, the students form a band and perform live gigs in the city. The top kids in each school compete to become an “All Star” band and get to go on tour regionally. Just recently, the school started a “Grad School” program giving the opportunity for amateur adults to join and become rock stars.
Back in 1998, Green started his music program by giving music lessons at his house. Two years later, he turned an old rundown building on Race St. in Philadelphia into a permanent home for the Paul Green School of Rock Music. In 2002, a film crew from VH1, Viacom’s television channel, filmed four class sessions for a proposed TV show. After the shoot, VH1 stopped returning Green’s calls. A year later Viacom’s movie studio, Paramount, released the movie “School of Rock.” Green considered suing Viacom, but he decided not to. Fast-forward to 2010, Sterling Partners and management purchased the school and the name was changed to School of Rock. Since then, 91 schools have opened in 30 states nation wide. There are 3 right here in Michigan: there’s one in Rochester, one in St. Clair Shores and the newest one is in Farmington.
The Rochester School of Rock opened its doors to aspiring rockers about four years ago. From the start, the “Graduate Program” was a huge success. People from all over the mitten come to Rochester to rock, be in a band and perform live on stage in front of thousands of screaming fans (your experience may differ).
The goal of the “Graduate Program” is to give adults the same opportunities as the kids, said Carmen Paradise, the manager of the Rochester School of Rock.
“Not everyone has the opportunity to be in a band,” she said. “We wanted that same opportunity for all ages.”
The Rochester School’s “Graduate Program’s” band is a cover band called Group Therapy, directed by Eddie Baranek, the front man of Detroit-based band, The Sights. Eddie’s love of early rock and roll has been a significant influence on Group Therapy’s grove. (Eddie and The Sights are on a national tour opening for Jack Black’s band Tenacious D).
Let me to introduce to you the members of Group Therapy.
Ladies first. On vocals, guitar and the sexy saxophone, the beautiful, Jean Wharton. Jean is an original member of the band formed in 2009. For her, the School of Rock is a dream come true.
“I couldn’t believe there was a place I can learn to play music and be in a band,” Jean said.
Next, on rhythm guitar, bass, vocals and harmonica, Mike Stankard. He joined School of Rock about a year ago, hoping to get better at guitar and was pleasantly surprised when he joined Group Therapy and learned how to play bass and harmonica.
“The band is perfect release after a hectic workday,” Stankard said.
On keyboards, “Mr. Cool,” Bryan Perles. Growing up, Perles’s parents made sure he was exposed to music and was excited to get to play in a band with his co-workers and is Group Therapy’s newest member.
On drums, “Spazzy McGee,” Mark Williams, who was sick and tired of playing all alone downstairs in his basement for twenty odd years. So he decided to go ahead and sign up for the Rochester School of Rock and play in a real band.
On rhythm guitar, bass, vocals and even maracas, the renaissance man, Mark Newport. Newport started going to the Rochester School of Rock about two years ago then his teacher said it was time he joined the adult band and he “accepted the challenge.” Newport’s next challenge is to learn how to play drums.
On lead guitar and bass, Dale Smigelski. Smigelski joined the Rochester School of Rock looking for professional help to teach him how to play guitar and one day, “Become a famous rock star.” The problem is, he has such a long commute to get to Rochester. When a franchise opportunity opened up, he “gave it a shot” and opened up the Farmington School of Rock!
Joining Dale on lead guitar is “Zach attack,” Julian Teachworth. Teachworth is an artist and aspiring musician and brings his smooth rhythm guitar to the band.
On guitar, vocals and drums, Ron Doerr. Doerr stumbled upon the Rochester School of Rock while walking the dog about eight months ago and decided to join. The rest is history.
Together, they are Group Therapy! They performed about a dozen gigs last year, including one during the Dream Cruise.
If you’re an adult and playing drums alone in the basement, want to shred on guitar or want to be a rock star, then go and sign up at the Rochester School of Rock on 415 Walnut Blvd. or give them a call at 248-726-9787 or visit their website at http://rochester.schoolofrock.com/.
If you join the School of Rock, we salute you!
(Thomas Stankard is a student at the University of Dayton with an academic major in communications and journalism. Brought up in Birmingham, Tom has an interest and concern for Metro Detroit and the LookUpDetroit project.)