The walls of School of Rock Mansfield vibrated with the sounds of a teen-age rock band pounding out “Come Together” by the Beatles.They weren’t really a band, just students learning their instruments who are brought together occasionally by instructors to test and hone their musical chops. Every student, no matter how green, gets the opportunity to jam, to be part of a team.“If I played in front of someone, it would have to be in front of friends or my family,” said Yauncee Yeager, 14, a guitar player who has been taking lessons at the school the past month. “I’m not that shy anymore.”Case in point, says the staff of the School of Rock, which opened quietly in mid-June then had a grand-opening Aug. 16. The program, like other music schools, teaches students to play instruments. But the School of Rock distinguishes itself with its faithful focus on rock music, mostly classic rock, and with its belief that getting all students into band scenarios builds self-confidence, responsibility and commitment.When the students improve, their groups will play at real venues in front of live audiences. “We think the best way to learn is by doing,” said Dean Tarpley, owner of the Mansfield franchise, his seventh School of Rock in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and 17th overall. “We believe it impacts social skills, the ability to interact with other kids. We think it makes them smarter.”Among the healing graces of rock band is making kids accountable. It comes from the pressure not to let down the band by not learning the material, Tarpley said. Peer pressure can be a more powerful force than the fear of letting down the teacher, he believes. Even School of Rock instructors, who couldn’t be more cool. They’re all gigging and recording musicians on their own time, who often line up gigs for their students.“We book real rock n’ roll shows,” said Aaron Stanfield, a multiple-instrument player who teaches drums. “We play some real venues; we do House of Blues, we do music festivals that our instructors play.”With that in mind, the School of Rock doesn’t waste time on teaching non-rock music on non-rock instruments.“We’re not in there teaching oboe or tuba or classical instruments,” Tarpley said. “We teach the instruments that area associated with the traditional rock music, primarily classic rock – guitar, bass, drums, keyboard and vocal.”Although Mansfield is in the school’s name on strip shopping center at 8021 Matlock Road, it’s technically in Arlington, just north of the Mansfield city limits. Tarpley said its target market is that northeast area of Mansfield.“We like locations in communities that have a good concentration of kids, family oriented activities, after-school activities and care about kids’ education and have discretionary income to pay for those activities,” he said.Rock God 101 isn’t cheap. Prices are based on the market, he said, but they range from $250 to $300 a month for private lessons and rock band. Rookies new to their instruments can take group lessons (different from “band”) for $155 per month.Tarpley’s 17 franchises have about 2,000 students, including those in Preschool of Rock, called Kinderockin! for 4- to 6-year-olds. But 90 percent of overall enrollment is composed of 7- to 18-year-olds, basically first through 12th grade.School of Rock was founded by Paul Green in 1998, but you might not have heard of it before the 2003 movie “School of Rock,” starring Jack Black. It portrayed parents as being uptight about their kids associating with the rock lifestyle.“I thought it was awful,” said Mollie Reyes, manager of the Mansfield school. In the real world, she said, “I love our parents. I think we have the coolest, most supportive parents.”Like Tyler Page’s parents. The 14-year-old student who has played guitar for six years – and even has a garage band, called Nothing Stranger, on the side – said his parents were fine with his enrolling at the rock school.“They actually like it,” he said. “They think it’s good for me to get out and express what I know with other musicians.”Yeager’s grandmother also signed him up with no quibbling.“She wanted me to do more things than just be at home,” he said.
Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641 Twitter: @Kaddmann