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For School of Rock-ers, All The World’s A Stage

Shannon Jabczynski, Stuart Smith, Brett Stowers, Dalton Rapattoni, Matt Langley, Fran Rapattoni.

(ROCKWALL, TX – October 4, 2015) There’s a new vibe, a new school, a new place to jam in Rockwall. The School of Rock, located at 206 E. Washington, offers a unique, performance-based approach to music education, giving each student the chance to work with a team and perform live in front of an audience. Blue Ribbon News staff writer Austin Wells sat down with Stuart Smith, Fran Rapattoni and Brett Stowers of The School of Rock, to learn how they are helping to rock the world of young musicians. 

Tell me the story of how School of Rock came to Rockwall.

Stuart: I left my corporate job, and at the suggestion of a friend whose son was enrolled in School of Rock, I started researching the opportunity. When I called them about opening a School of Rock in Rockwall, they said there’s a guy named Dean Tarpley who has the rights to all the schools in DFW. So I called Dean.

The first thing Dean said was, ‘There’s one question I have to ask you before we go any further.’ I said, ‘What’s that?’ He said, ‘Who’s the greatest rock n’ roll band of all time?’ And I said, ‘You probably think it’s Led Zeppelin, and they are the best ever, but the best of all time is Rush because they’ve done it for 40 years.’ And Dean said, ‘Okay, Led Zeppelin was the right answer, and Rush is pretty good, too.’

Dean currently owns 22 schools around the country, so he brings a lot of the know-how to School of Rock, and living here locally I brought the local knowledge, so it’s been a good partnership.

What about you, Fran? How did you get involved in the School of Rock?

Fran: My son, Dalton – who’s 19 – began taking guitar lessons when he was 10. He’d go in a back room and learn songs, play for the family at Thanksgiving and stuff like that. After about a year and a half he said he was bored and didn’t want to do it anymore. About the same time, I’d been playing ice hockey and a friend on my team said he read in the Dallas Observer that School of Rock was opening in Dallas, and that he was putting his kid in there and that I should put Dalton in there, too. It was good timing. We went down, checked it out, and for the next three months I’d drop him off there, pick him up, and he wouldn’t ever tell me what was going on in there – said it was a secret and that I’d see it at the first show. So at the show I’m sitting there and waiting and all these kids are up on stage, and my son’s not there. The music starts playing, and my son comes barreling off side stage, grabs the mic and starts singing. They had him singing, playing the guitar, the bass, the drums, and the keys.

We got into it very quickly. At our house we have a red car, a black car and a white car –School ofRock colors. We bleed the School of Rock. It’s a great program and definitely has enriched two of my kids’ lives tremendously, and taught them skills that they’ll use well into adulthood.

What sets School of Rock apart from other music schools?

Fran: It’s the performance program, completely. If you were to play basketball, and you were in your own backyard every single day shooting hoops, you’re only gonna get so good. You have to go play with other kids, and that’s what we do. We get them on stage, and that’s where you really start learning. The only difference between athletics andSchool ofRock is that nobody loses at the end, nobody goes home crying and there’s no trophies; everybody wins. Hopefully we melt some faces along the way and have a great time.

Another thing that’s great is that we don’t have any policies on bullying that a lot of other schools have, because we don’t need them. It’s non-existent. This is the one place where you can walk into one of the back rooms and see a 10-year-old teaching a 17-year-old who’s new to the guitar how to play a certain riff. It’s very unique in that way, and that separates us from the other schools.

Stuart: In short, we’re trying to inspire kids to rock on stage and rock in life as well, because they learn a lot of teamwork and accountability to their bandmates.

And you guys encourage kids to learn all instruments and not just focus on one particular instrument?

Fran: Right. Musicians, in general, usually play all different instruments.

Stuart: Dave Grohl’s a great example. He’s just killing it right now. He started off playing drums for Nirvana, and he plays guitar and sings and does it all.

You’re really big on getting kids on stage and letting them perform in a live concert. How important do you think this type of opportunity is for kids learning to become rock stars?

Fran: Well, all of our kids are rock stars, so everyone here gets that classification automatically. But as far as training goes, I would say 95 percent of the kids that come toSchool ofRock come for the experience that they’ll take with them forever, whether they do a band or don’t do a band. However, for those that do decide to move on, the experience is unlike anything you could ever get. You work with legitimate rock stars who are teaching you. These guys who teach for our schools have been on the road for years, signed to major labels, toured the world, sold albums and Top 40 hits. With musicians – not unlike a lot of athletes – you get to a certain age where they want to pass on what they know, so we’re fortunate to have those types of people. It really makes an incredible mentorship for kids who want to take it to the next level.

You guys got a lot of support from the community at your recent grand opening. Talk about what that support has meant to you.

The School of Rock officially opened with a guitar smashing rather than a ribbon cutting.

Stuart: When I wanted to put School ofRock in Rockwall, I contacted the city manager who lives on my street. He put me in touch with the head of Planning and Zoning, Robert LaCroix, who recently retired from the City ofRockwall. Robert is also a working musician. He gave me about 10 different properties to look at. After my wife and I looked at them all, we fell in love with this location. The owner of this building, Tom Walker, has been the best owner we could ask for. He loves the idea of the legacy for of the building he’s owned for 25 years and what it can continue to be.

Then there’s the Downtown Merchants Association. There’s a tight-knit community of fellow business owners who want to see us be successful, and we want to help them be successful. We really leveraged that network and those relationships at the city and merchant level, and within the community, too. That created the type of support you saw at the grand opening.

Where do students get to perform? Is it just local or all over?

Stuart: We’re always looking for opportunities for our kids to perform. We performed at the Duck Regatta. We will play before all of the Rockwall and Rockwall-Heath high school home football games. We’ll perform at the Rib Rub on Oct 3. And we are always looking for local venues. And it goes beyond just Rockwall. We play at House of Blues on a fairly regular basis. Every year we take over Deep Ellum, and we’re in 10 different venues there for what we call Rockstravaganza.

Does the school itself have a band?

Fran:Right now we’re borrowing some of the Dallas band; these are the kids you’d see performing at football games or at The Harbor because we don’t have our band assembled yet.  But yes, we’re looking to do that very quickly. Hopefully by the end of the year we can start auditioning for the house band here.

Why is it important to have music in one’s life? How do you think music impacts the lives of kids specifically?

Brett: It makes you smarter. When it comes right down to it, you’re forming new connections in your brain and looking at new ways of thinking about stuff. It’s a team building thing and builds confidence. Above everything, it’s learning to work with a group. That applies to anything in your life.

Stuart: I’ll give you an example. My 10-year-old daughter, she sings. And she will work at it and practice without us having to tell her what to do because she’s just so passionate about it. It makes her articulate in a way that puts her beyond her peers. So music makes you smarter; it makes you more confident. We have a lot of kids who have tried sports, and just couldn’t find their thing in sports. But there’s just going to be a connection that happens when they’re in a group. I grew up playing sports and I always played up to the level of my team, I know you do that inSchool ofRock as well. You will play up to the level of your band. We want to have that accountability and that leadership to inspire our kids to do it.

To learn more, visit http://locations.schoolofrock.com/rockwallcall 469-314-1300 or follow them on facebook.

School of Rock  is a client of BRN Media, publisher of Blue Ribbon News.

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