News Column

They wanna rock; School of Rock students ready to take the stage

July 10, 2014

By Julie Ferrell, Ames Tribune, Iowa

July 10--The sounds of percussion, guitars, saxophones and more will be blasting from Zeke's this weekend.

Kids from the Ames area will be gathering at the local concert venue Friday and Saturday to perform in the annual Iowa School of Rock program.

The two-week summer program, which is put on by Ames Music Studios, places kids in separate bands according to age and skill level, and faculty members and coaches then help each band select three songs to perform at the final concert. Throughout the two weeks, the students are also responsible for memorizing the songs, creating a band name, and designing an image and logo for their group.

Al Biela, director for the Iowa School of Rock program, said this year's session includes 24 kids, all ranging from 11 to 16 years old, who are split up into five bands. Biela said he hopes the session helps the students create a cohesive band, as well as learn more about the process of starting a band.

"We just want to give them a toolkit to say, 'Here's how you rehearse a band, here's how you organize everything from the ground up,'" Biela said.

In this year's group, Biela said he is seeing more veteran musicians, including some who have been a part of the program for five or six years. With more experienced musicians familiar with the program, Biela said the bands have more time to become more advanced.

In some situations, Biela said some students even branch out and practice instruments they may not have been interested in when they first joined the program. Biela said one band member began as a bass player, but eventually learned how to sing lead and back-up vocals when his band needed him.

"We needed somebody else singing chorus, and he didn't want to do it," Biela said. "So we put him in on the song but after practice, he was like, 'This is really fun.' Now he's starting to see himself in another light. So that's always part of what's interesting about School of Rock."

For Noah Heinrich, the two-week program has helped him learn how to collaborate with other musicians his age. Combined with band members Brandon Pahl, Sarah Farwell, Josh and Ryan Holst, Emma St. Clair and coach Jordan Mayland, the group has formed the rock band, Downtown Six.

The group will perform "Lonely Boy," by The Black Keys; "25 or 6 to 4," by Chicago; and "Smooth," by Carlos Santana, which the band agreed has been a challenging song to learn. But Heinrich added that the experience has helped him improve as a musician.

"I usually practice by myself, so getting together and playing with a band has really helped me become a better guitarist," he said.

While the program currently is offered for only two weeks in the summer, Biela said he would like to see a second concert next year, held during the spring semester. Biela said he also hopes to eventually create a year-long program where School of Rock students can continue practicing and possibly perform in a few concerts throughout the year.

But even with this year's short time with his bands, Biela said he has enjoyed watching his students become better and more experienced musicians.

"They make the hard decisions they have to make along the way, whether it's stepping into a role they're not comfortable with or stepping out of a role they are comfortable with," he said. "I love that stuff. That's the best stuff."

Iowa School of Rock summer concerts

Where: Zeke's, 3329 Lincoln Way

When: Friday and Saturday, July 11 and 12, at 7 p.m.

Cost: $10


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Source: Ames Tribune (IA)

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