They have no tattoos, piercings or bad habits, but the members of “In One Ear and Out the Other” are true rock stars in the making.
While their peers are learning the classics and playing pieces by Pachelbel or Beethoven, these young musicians jam out on drums and electric guitars to the tunes of AC/DC and Billy Idol.
They can play anything — from alternative to 1980s hairband rock — and can discuss the merits of Nirvana’s alternative style just as well as the Southern rock of the Eagles.
With their busy schedule and concerts around Frederick County, it is hard to believe the seven members of the band still are in middle and elementary school.
Ages 7 to 13, the young musicians came together through the Let There Be Rock School — a performance-based alternative music school in Frederick. Formerly known as the Frederick Rock School, the school helps even the youngest rock afficionados to form their own band and work together as they develop their passion for music.
“I played drums in my school band and I couldn’t stand it,” said Payson Silvio, 12, who has been in the school since it first opened in 2010. “This is so much better. They actually teach you stuff that’s hard.”
Teaching students how to perform on stage and work with other band members is one of the central goals of the Let There Be Rock School, said director and founder Rick Marceron. A musician who has played the bass guitar since he was 12, Marceron was inspired to start the school by a friend who ran a similar school in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pa.
Although the school does offer private lessons for interested students, its main focus is on grouping students together in bands, based on age and ability.
Individual bands come up with a name and develop their unique identity. Band members then have 12 weeks to work with instructors and prepare for a show, where they perform on stage for a live audience, Marceron said.
Going through that process is not easy, but it helps students learn how to work as a team, Marceron said.
“It’s a lot of work and they have to learn how to listen to each other,” he said.
Although the Let There Be Rock School started with three bands, today it has 31, with musicians as young as 6, Marceron said.
Enrollment at the school also has spiked from 16 students in 2010 to 155 this year, he said. The school also has two additional sites — one in Columbia and one outside of Philadelphia, Pa.
For students who take classes at the school, playing in the band is what keeps them coming back.
“We are learning things and making friends,” said Alex Thrailkill, who plays the drums in “In One Ear and Out the Other.”
Alex, who has been with the band since its inception, says band members felt awkward in the beginning, when instructors left them in a room for 30 minutes to come up with a name. But during the course of time — as they practiced together, learned new songs and performed as a group — the young musicians became friends.
“We all know each other now,” he said. “At times we would just sit down and talk.”
Having already performed 1980s and 1970s rock and alternative rock songs, the band now is preparing for its next show, where band members will play three Southern Rock songs, including “No Rain” by Blind Melon and “Hearthache Tonight” by the Eagles. The band does not yet have a set date for the show, but it most likely will take place the last weekend of July or the first weekend of August at Champion Billiards and Sports Cafe in Frederick.
The band also plans to perform at the Libertytown carnival on Aug. 1, at the July 4 celebration at Baker Park in Frederick and at the In the Streets event on Sept. 10. Although many of the students in the band had taken some private music lessons before, those could not compare to the opportunity to work with others and perform before a live audience.
“Here you can be more different,” said Jake Guss, 12, who plays bass guitar.
Parents of the young musicians also agree the experience has been beneficial for their children.
Susie Mencher said being in the band has helped her 7-year-old daughter, Amelia, build on her passion for singing. Amelia, who joined the band when she was 6, looks forward to every practice and performance, Mencher said.
Laurel Manthey-Silvio, who is Payson’s mom, agreed. Ever since she joined the band, Payson — who used to be shy and quiet — has opened up and gained confidence, Manthey-Silvio said.
“For being in middle school and trying to find yourself, this has been a great place to fit in,” she said.