It will be hard to forget the feeling I had when I first walked through the doors at Boise Rock School. I was welcomed with warming smiles, and kind voices. There were pictures of children playing instruments plastered all over the room. A student could be heard playing guitar in the background, learning an ACDC song. I could envision the next Van Halen, Neil Peart, Victor Wooten, or Stevie Nicks finding their passion in a place like this and going on to do great things.
My name is Benjamin Martin. I am a fourth-year student at Boise State University studying entrepreneurship/management with a minor in marketing. One of my professors informed me of a wonderful opportunity to score an internship with the Boise Rock School. Having been involved with music education for over 10 years, I was immediately interested. I quickly researched the company, learning all about what they do, and why they do it. One thing I was curious about, was the intention of teaching children music. Did they want to create a healthy after-school option? Did they want to provide lessons for rock music, because many instructors focus on genres like classical and jazz? As you can imagine, this was one of the first questions I asked during my interview.
The answer was simple,
“We want to empower youth through music. Our focus is to teach young students how to collaborate in a band, express themselves creatively, and find passion through the art of music.”
-Ryan (co-founder of Boise Rock School).
Boise Rock School in Action
While working for Boise Rock School, I was tasked with filming and editing videos of performances of our band students. Each band was to perform one or two songs after their 8 weeks of supervised rehearsal.
At first, I was timid. I understood that most musicians can become shy or scared in front of multiple cameras. There is almost always a sense of unrest while performing under pressure. I would think this to be true, especially for younger students not quite at a point of mastery with their instruments. I started with staying about ten feet away from the first band, giving them their space and not putting on too much pressure.
Then, something incredible happened. We pressed record, and the band went wild. I saw the excitement and passion flowing through each of these early musicians. Some were jumping up and down, dancing, and waving their hair around, just like the rock stars they have seen on television.
I was shocked by this confidence and courage, which helped me realize that I couldn’t miss the opportunity. I got even closer with the camera, zooming into their instruments, facial expressions, and dance moves. The energy still did not waiver, rather, it was heightened. We were feeding off each other. My camera gave them motivation to perform, while their performance energy helped me to see their vision. How they wanted to look on camera, and how they imagined themselves on a huge stage with thousands of fans.
In a moment of reflection, I realized something valuable. This school is doing much more than teaching kids how to play in a band. Never have I seen so many students, and so many young bands play as if they had no one watching. It was as if they had been performing for years and were used to the attention. How did these children overcome their fear, and let their musical creativity shine?
The Method, The Instructors, The Curriculum
I thought back to what Ryan told me. The Boise Rock School focuses on empowering youth through music. That day, and every day after that I watched and filmed students perform, I realized what I was watching was more than a musical performance. It was also a showcase of personality and passion for each student.
How did the Boise Rock School achieve this? There are a few main components that I believe has led to the success of this program. These components are as follows
- Judgement-free space
I have sat in on a couple of classrooms, and they all share the same judgement-free environment. Teachers do not humiliate or scold for wrong notes, or off-key singing.
Instructors let the students learn through repetition and being available to answer questions.
- Encouraging creativity
Instructors allow students to pick band names or make musical contributions during discussions.
Students can pick how they want a song to sound, and how they can add their own “voice” in a band setting.
- Pushing for passion
Instructors do not simply just teach the notes. Instructors may be inclined to discuss dynamics, movement, and stage presence.
- Student-led learning
Students pick the songs they want to play.
Students work and learn at their own pace, what they put in is what they get out of it.
This type of environment fosters creative and passionate learning. Students do not feel as if there is a “rubric” for their creativity, or a need to be perfect. Students are motivated to learn because they have found excitement and passion with the songs they choose, and musical independence that they can achieve.
What does “Rock” mean to Boise Rock School?
Kurt Cobain, the lead singer of the successful band Nirvana, stated, “Rock should mean freedom, liking and excepting anything that you like. Playing whatever you want. As sloppy as you want. As long as it’s good and it has passion.”
I feel that this quote accurately describes the process at Boise Rock School. The point isn’t just teaching music. The point, is to teach students how to find passion in any activity.
In the future, students will remember what they learned at Boise Rock School and apply it to every aspect of their life. Whether it is in their careers, relationships, or hobbies, these students are now more prepared to face the world thanks to the power of music. The Boise Rock School is providing valuable education to hundreds of students each year. Keep your eye on this company, they are going to do even more great things as the future progresses.