School of Rock
School of Rock All Stars benefit November 2010
On “Another Brick in the Wall Part II,” Pink Floyd employed kids from the Islington Green School to sing the song’s memorable lyrics: “We don’t need no education...Hey teacher, leave those kids alone.”
Thirty years since the release of “The Wall,” a new generation of kids are tackling that and other songs from the album. The Northeast edition of the School of Rock All Stars, a collective of aspiring and advanced-level young musicians, will not only sing songs from that work, but will also perform the music for a show on Dec. 26 at B.B. King Blues Club and Grill in Times Square.
The All Stars is part of School of Rock, a company that provides musical instruction to kids ages 7-to-18 -- it has 58 schools throughout the country. “'The Wall' is the first show that any school does when they open up,”says Darren Musatto, School of Rock New York City’s music director. "That’s just the rule ever since the beginning of the company. [Mark Biondi, who is now heading up the All Stars] just thought it was the right time kind of to have a little rebirth and start back at the beginning again.”
“It happens to coincide with Roger Waters going out on tour and doing “The Wall” as well, which is great,” said Joanna Erdos, the general manager of the New York City branch.
A select few All Star students from School of Rock New York City, which was founded in 2003, will join the other All Stars from the Northeast schools in performing the entire “Wall” album. According to Erdoso, the kids are already expected to know the material on their own. “They don’t have many rehearsals because they’re all from all over the place,” she says. “So they’re really expected to do a lot of work on their own and with their teachers here or their teachers in their school. They don’t go to the rehearsals to learn how to play the songs, they go to the rehearsals to perfect."
Bayli McKeithan, 16, a LaGuardia High School student, is one of the School of Rock New York City’s All Stars who will be playing at the show. An aspiring guitarist, she’s says that she loves Pink Floyd. “I’m playing some bass in the show and doing lead vocals and a lot of backups and stuff,” says McKeithan.
The All Stars is only open to more advanced-level kids musicians through an audition. That aside, the overall School of Rock program is basically aimed at all levels, says Erdos, including for those kids who have never played an instrument. "We do put them on stage after three months whether they’re ready or not,” says Erdoso. “They know how much time they’re allotted, they know what they have to do, they know their songs, and they’re gonna get on stage. There’s always some stuff that’s brilliant and some stuff that you have to wear extra earplugs.”
McKeithan calls her experience as an All Star, for which she has been for a year-and-a-half, as good. "You go on tour with other amazing musicians. You get the experience and you get much better. It’s very diverse and nice. Touring wise you get a lot of experience, you get to see other places [and] play big venues like B.B. King. You get much better at what it is you do. It’s really fun as well.”
The music that is tackled by School of Rock New York City students isn’t middle-of-the-road stuff—some of the artists include the Sex Pistols, the Beastie Boys, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac and Beck. “We want to choose things that have educational value and that’s weighed against what the appetite is,” explains Musatto. “We try to steer them slowly towards new things. There hasn’t been a single show that hasn’t really turned on new minds to different styles.”
But the program does more than just teach kids music.“The best thing that I’ve seen the program do here,” says Musatto, “is a kid who’s come in here and been extremely socially awkward, sort of frustrated...just kind of land it here. And then performing and being up in front of an audience and having all those cheers and all that adulation and see all that hard work pay off does something to a kid. That’s the thing they’ll carry with them."
As for this up coming performance of “The Wall,” Musatto says that he expects to be blown away. “These kids have been involved for a while. You’re expected to work really hard and represent in the most impressive way. So with this show, I wouldn’t be turned off if I’ve heard bad notes, but I would expect it to be pretty dazzling.”
“You’re gonna hear singers that have unique voices,” said Erdoso, “and you’re gonna see different styles that are their own and that they bring to the table, which I really think is really the fun part too. They’re playing these songs very technically much the same as Pink Floyd did, but they’re adding their own personalities.”
“School of Rock All Stars Play Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’” at B.B. King Blues Club and Grill, 237 W. 42nd St., on Sunday Dec. 26, 7 p.m. $15 adv., $20 d.o.s. For information, visit http://www.schoolofrock.com/newyork/main_school.php.