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Sunday May 22nd

School of Rock Chapel Hill alters their music education during the pandemic

Students of School of Rock Chapel Hill rehearse on Monday, Feb. 15, for their upcoming mid-season preview show. The show will be streamed live from Cat's Cradle on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021.
Buy Photos Students of School of Rock Chapel Hill rehearse on Monday, Feb. 15, for their upcoming mid-season preview show. The show will be streamed live from Cat's Cradle on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021.

Performing in a live band during a pandemic might be difficult, but the School of Rock Chapel Hill (SORCH) works to give its students the ability to master their instrument in a fun environment, while adhering to COVID-19 safety standards.

SORCH's mission is to create collaborative spaces for youth, and even adults, to learn the basics of various instruments including guitar, piano and drums.

“The whole approach that we take to music is something that we call ‘song first,’” David Joseph, owner and general manager of SORCH, said. “It’s teaching our students how to play music and play as a band before getting into all of the theory of music and learning how to read sheet music.”

The local franchise plans to hold a free, live-streamed midseason preview at The Cat’s Cradle on Feb. 28.

“It's kind of okay at the midseason if things get a little off because we're just introducing these songs and performing them for the first time,” Charlie Garnett, private instructor and assistant show director of SORCH, said. “It's like a little test run in a way but it shouldn't be a train wreck or anything.”

Students will perform covers by their favorite artists from Stevie Wonder to AC/DC, and the midseason show will be a teaser for what’s to come at SORCH’s final performance on April 25.

Garnett leads the course ‘Rock 101,’ where children eight to 13 years old practice their instrument of choice and learn how to play in a band. This group, including the performance group that comprises of older, more advanced students, will perform on The Cat’s Cradle livestream which viewers can watch on its Facebook or YouTube page.

Different instructors, like Garnett, guide student-driven lessons, either in person or virtually, in conjunction with The School of Rock method curriculum to take full advantage of students’ musical ambitions.

Haylie Fehl, a senior majoring in exercise and sports science and a private guitar instructor at SORCH, said that since the pandemic began she has mainly held her private lessons over Zoom, where students have the freedom to build their music education.  

“For private lessons, the study is student-directed and we figure out what the student wants to learn, whether it's reading music, learning skills, learning how to solo, learning music theory or just learning a ton of songs that they like,” Fehl said. “Then, we as instructors like to take whatever their main goal is and incorporate it into our School of Rock method books, which takes the student through beginner to super advanced.”

Fehl has been virtually working with a group of young women who are creating a music video that will premier during the livestream next week. They plan to perform covers of female artists and female-led bands in the spirit of their theme, 'Women Who Rock.'

Whether it be soulful blues or indie rock, Joseph said that SORCH’s music education carries an impact greater than rock 'n' roll.

“The program works and it’s life changing in a positive way,” Joseph said. “People come in here, they learn to play music and music is a skill you can do forever. It’s not like being a running back on a football team and having to retire at age 26. You can play music for decades and decades.”


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