Student musicians jam at School of Rock concert

Anything But Country — (from left to right) senior Alexandria Brooks, senior Jabari Cox, senior Jillian Chestnut, and junior Grace Scheffler rehearse for the December 10th School of Rock concert. “This is like the finale of the movie, after the climax, and we’re all together now,” Scheffler said. Photo by Justin Vernam.

On the ground lay a drum set. Facing it was a piano placed to the immediate left of a row of microphones set in place by their adjustable stands, and three amps arranged in a small arc. Behind the curtain, sat twenty-odd musicians, silently preparing themselves in nervous excitement. The stage was set in soft purple for School of Rock’s performance to be taking place later that evening.

E for everyone

School of Rock is a one semester course held here at East focused around the creation of music. Students of any musical background are given the opportunity to learn about and make music. Course director Stevan Rexroat said the class is a great option for anyone to take no matter what experience or goals they posses.

“Anyone can take School of Rock. You don’t have to have any musical background. There are some students that are in band or choir or have been playing guitar for many years. There are some students that have no musical background,” Rexroat said.

Many of the students are taking the class because they wish to pursue music as a career. The students wishing to enter the music industry face many challenges, at is a very complex field with lots of hardships. According to Junior Grace Scheffler, the class does well to prepare students for what it may be like in the industry.

“It’s refreshing to get a new perspective, and it’s a nice way to see what a future in collaborating [with other musicians] might be like,” Scheffler began. “I’m really interested in … songwriting commercially and to make a career out of writing songs for other people.”

Grace isn’t the only student with her career in mind with taking School of Rock. Senior Jabari “Big Bari” Cox said the class caters perfectly to his current major, and is very helpful in introducing him to some of the base level knowledge he’ll need.

“I [would like to go] into music technology so i can make a career out of being in the studio … It’s been helpful [in School of Rock]. I’ve been working with music software which is crucial in a music technology major,” Cox said.

The class also serves as simply an outlet for students who enjoy making music. Senior staff writer Rachel Disher said getting to just play music at the beginning of the day helps with her anxiety, a statement with which senior Andrew Cespedes agreed, and said that although he doesn’t want to pursue a career, he still enjoys the class.

“I’ve been playing guitar since I was little. My dad is pretty big in music so he started teaching me guitar pretty young. Starting off the day just getting to play guitar is really nice,” Cespedes said.

The gang’s all here

The key aspect of the class is what awaits the students soon after starting. The students form small bands with their classmates with which they must make their music with. Many of the students in the class didn’t know each other beforehand. Senior Jillian Chestnut served as the leader in pulling together her band, Anything But Country.

“I was in with Jabari [initially] because we do this thing called whack freestyles, where we just play the piano and rap and sing and just mess around,” Chestnut started. “Then Grace and I bond over posting music on Soundcloud … I knew both of them, and we all ended up together.”

For all the students, the band experience was a positive one. Many of them didn’t have much prior experience working with other artists. According to Cox, while it may have been a little rough at first, it had only a positive effect on everyone.

“When we collaborate and make songs people get out of their comfort zones,” Bari began. “But I think everyone would agree that they are glad they get out of their comfort zones. I’ve seen everyone in that class get more creative as the semester has progressed.”

With the growth in their music, there was also the growth in their relationships. Scheffler compared it to a movie. Chestnut agreed and said it was almost unexpected.

“In our little room, it felt like a movie, like The Breakfast club. We became a little group that was unexpected, and I really liked it. It was a nice bond,” Chestnut said.

Over the quiet strums of guitars, Cespedes, Disher, and Chestnut all agreed that the level of bonding achieved through working together is special and a whole different kind of friendship is formed by being in a band together.

It’s rock and roll, baby

The bands, in their quiet rooms tucked silently within the maze-like B-wing, worked for months on their music, all leading up to a concert at the end of the semester. Cespedes said that writing the songs he and Disher performed was not a strenuous task and actually rather fun.

“There wasn’t [much work] that had to go into it. Most mornings we just sat on the floor jamming out and stuff till eventually we had songs,” Cespedes said.

For other bands however, the process wasn’t as easy. For the members of Anything But Country, it wasn’t as easy. Chestnut said she and her band, including Scheffler and Bari, struggled to write their songs but were satisfied all the same. No matter how easy the process came though, everyone was nervous for the concert. Scheffler said her commitment to her fellow band members was a huge weight on her shoulders.

“I’m scared that if I mess up then everyone messes up. If I miss a key or something it’ll throw all the singing or rapping off and I really don’t want to let down my band members out there because they’ve all worked really hard,” Scheffler said, met immediately with support and reassurance from her band members, all of which were set to perform two pop songs in a matter of minutes.

The concert took place the evening of January 10th, as the musicians filed up behind the curtain, they could be heard silently reciting their lyrics under their anxious, but excited breaths. Just minutes before, Rexroat reminded them to have fun, support each other, and just enjoy being in the moment. Before taking the stage, Cespedes expressed nothing but excitement for the concert.

“I’m pretty excited. We’ve been working on this all semester and I’m excited to see what everyone else did and the sounds we’ve all come up with, we’re all very different,” Cespedes, whose band played two indie style songs, said.

Each band took the stage twice, performing two original songs a piece, with one band performing a third cover song. The range of styles and instruments well represented the wide array of personalities which emerged from behind the curtains. The stage saw a mix of pop, alternative, rock, indie, and purely instrumental songs from just under ten bands. The students sang and played their hearts out in their last big bang in the class, seeing as it ends when the semester ends.

“I just hope we can get with our bands still once this all over and just jam out, you know,” Chestnut said, met with silent and smiling nods from her band mates and peers.

Justin Vernam is a staff writer for Oswego East’s online news magazine the Howl

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