According to Laura Bollettino, executive director at the School of Rock of Silver Spring, the philosophy behind the unconventional music school is “if you tell [children] they can do something, then they think they can and they do it.”
“You tell them, get on-stage at The Fillmore and they say, ‘Yeah, why wouldn’t I get on stage at The Fillmore?’” Bollettino said. “Any adult would be paralyzed with fear.”
Students from the School of Rock in Silver Spring will prove Bollettino right on Sunday when they take the stage at the venue. The afternoon concert will showcase musicians from the school’s School of Rock 101 program, Performance Program, Adult Program, Silver Spring School of Rock House Band and special guest performers, Philadelphia-based Swift Technique. There will be a second show at Comet Ping Pong in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 26.
School of Rock was founded in 1998 by Paul Green. There are currently more than 15,000 students enrolled in 125 schools across seven countries. Bollettino and her husband Jeff opened two School of Rock locations in Virginia: one in Vienna in July 2006 and one in Ashburn in July 2007. The two took over the Silver Spring location in September 2007.
“My husband and I were both involved in corporate America and as our kids were getting older, we realized we were missing out on a lot,” Bollettino said. “This was a unique concept … we really saw it made [students] really good, really fast.”
School of Rock is a performance-based music school with an emphasis on fun.
“We always joke around and say, ‘Don’t tell the kids we’re a serious music school,” Bollettino said.
But School of Rock means business.
Students are first enrolled in School of Rock 101, teaching basic skills through 45-minute private lessons and 90-minute group sessions. Students then move on to the Performance Program, which consists of 45-minute private lessons and a final show. The students rehearse for three hours, once a week in preparation for the end-of-season show at the end of the 12-13 week session.
Teachers at the school come from a range of backgrounds.
“We use a combination of teachers,” Bollettino said. “ … [some] are gigging musicians, some have degrees, some have just a lot of experience.”
But the headmaster is studio manager Forrest Hainline IV.
“I like to think of myself as the principal of School of Rock,” Hainline said. “I promote a culture that is fun and safe and comfortable and inspiring for students.”
A Montgomery County native and a graduate of the Landon School in Bethesda, Hainline has been with School of Rock of Silver Spring for one and a half years.
“I really never thought of teaching,” said Hainline, who graduated from Augustana College in Illinois. “Even two years into it I never thought I was qualified, but people kept asking me to come back.”
On top of teaching private lessons, Hainline also leads students in the Performance Program and has prepared all of the students performing in Saturday’s concert.
“We give them song assignments …” Hainline said. “Students come in once a week for three hours and start chipping away.”
According to Hainline, Saturday’s concert, which is divided into two parts, “What’s His Name Is?!” and “Who’s That Grrrl?!” is a celebration of songs about guys and girls. The lineup includes Simon & Garfunkel’s “Cecilia,” “Hey Jude,” by the Beatles and “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” by the Ramones.
Though School of Rock’s emphasis is obviously on the music, both Bollettino and Hainline said the program helps its students develop skills applicable to other areas of their lives as well.
“Part of being an artist and being a gigging musician is you have to do promotion,” Bollettino said. “Selling tickets, making posters.”
School of Rock students have vowed to sell 400 tickets on their own for Saturday’s performance.
Bollettino added that School of Rock also builds self-assurance in its students.
“One of the things I’ve seen over and over again, by getting on stage and pushing through your fears, you gain confidence,” Bollettino said. “The feeling of accomplishment and ‘I did it’ and ‘I learned this hard piece of music,’ that can translate to any obstacle they’ll face in the future.”