For youngsters, School of Rock strikes a chord
In just three years at Omaha School of Rock, 11-year-old Aidan Fisher transformed from a guitar newbie to a YouTube sensation. Last year, a chance encounter led Aidan to take the stage and shred a Van Halen solo with ’80s heavy metal rockers Steel Panther, drawing cheers from the leather-clad rockers and a packed house. The video of his solo has nabbed more than a million hits on YouTube. “My mind was blown,” Aidan said of the experience.
Teaching kids like Aidan how to rock on the stage and in life is Omaha School of Rock’s forte. Since 2011, the school has taught youngsters guitar, bass, vocals, keyboard and drums through a combination of private lessons, group band practice and live shows. The school takes a unique approach to music that motivates kids to learn and grow.
“Instead of only the student and teacher communicating through music, we open it up to a bigger level where they are playing with peers and around town,” said general manager Jessica Moore.
Omaha’s School of Rock is one of more than 125 School of Rock locations nationally. Located in the old Millard High School and covered in posters, the school gives off a lived-in record-store vibe. During lessons, teachers like Erik Jarvis sneak in music theory alongside fun-to-play songs.
“Instead of using Beethoven’s sonatas to learn how to play keyboard, you learn to play ‘Light my Fire’ by The Doors,” he said.
As the kids’ skills improve, they start playing with a performance group that preps for concerts at local venues. School of Rock bands have played at Storm Chasers games, Fun-Plex, music venues and bar and grills. As the school’s reputation has spread, venues and organizations are requesting Omaha School of Rock to play at their events.
The school also offers multiple Rock 101 summer camps. New this year, a guitar building camp will guide youth through the process of soldering and staining their own guitar. While the majority of programming is aimed at kids ages 6 through high school, the school also offers a program for adults to sharpen their skills.
The benefits for kids go beyond learning how to play an instrument. School of Rock teachers let kids experiment with different instruments and explore what works for them. They interact with students from different schools and circles from all over the city. Over time, kids begin to discover who they are, Moore said.
“We teach respect, communication, creativity — all the skills necessary for kids to bloom in the most positive ways,” she said.
Teachers and parents notice that kids become more confident through the experience of performing. Paige Edwards enrolled her three children in a weeklong summer camp program at School of Rock. At their final camp performance, Edwards said she was blown away.
“In a week they went from never having been on stage to being able to perform a concert,” she said. “That was the coolest thing we had ever seen our kids do, compared to sports, school events, anything.”
Jadon, 12, plays drums; Brittany, 14, and Tiffany, 16, are vocalists. In the year since that first summer camp, the kids have performed at venues throughout Omaha. This summer, the family is headed to the annual School of Rock Summerfest battle of the bands competition in Milwaukee. The whole experience has made an impact on the kids.
“It’s added a ton to their life, who they are, their confidence,” Paige Edwards said.
Aidan’s father, Chris, wanted his children to get exposure to instruments they could play throughout life. With School of Rock’s quarterly concerts, Chris found that Aidan and daughter Rebekah were motivated to work hard and perform well. Even in the first lessons, “they start playing songs immediately,” he said.
School of Rock planted the seeds for Aidan to dream big about music. Since starting lessons, Aidan has practiced hard to impress the likes of rockers like Steel Panther. The experiences have fostered a love of music.
“After that, I knew that being a musician is what I wanted to do,” he said.
Omaha School of Rock
13270 Millard Ave.
Watch Aidan Fisher’s guitar solo with Steel Panther on YouTube:
See them yourself
Watch the School of Rock kids perform live in Omaha:
June 23, 6 p.m.
The Waiting Room Lounge
6212 Maple St.