School's out: Montreal rock camp lets kids shred all summer long
MONTREAL -- In a dimly lit Verdun basement, groups of pre-teens have set aside their bathing suits and skateboards to dive into their passion for rock and roll.
Like an echo of their parent's musical tastes, the players thrash their instruments to the sound of Deep Purple or AC/DC.
“I like Guns and Roses and Led Zeppelin,” says 12-year-old drummer Paul Anthony, while keeping the beat to Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train.
“I like pop, I like rock, but I don't like pop rock,” quips 12 year old bassist Tennessee Rose Rupnik, while holding an instrument bigger than she is.
The School of Rock in Verdun welcomes children from all walks of life. It's a summer camp with outdoor activities, but the magic takes place when they enter the studio.
“It's a day camp. They want to go to the pool. They want to go to skateboarding and everything, but when they are committed to the music, they there's no stopping them,” explains camp counselor Stephane Heroux, who teaches music in schools the rest of the year.
Inaki Arsenault Bertolini used the summer camp excuse to try something he hadn't learned in music class.
“I learned mostly classical piano,” explains the young boy, taking a break from playing the Deep Purple classic Highway Star, “but I thought it was boring.”
“I wanted to switch to guitar, but the keyboards made me realize rock and roll is what I liked.”
Some of them came to the camp without a musical background, but discovered the power of rock while building friendships with other young musicians.
Tennessee Rose Rupnik says she spent two weeks at the camp and made friends along the way.
“It's really cool because I already know the drummer, she was in my band the other week, so she's one of my really good friends. I met Clara too, on bass, and she's really nice”
The bands learn to play in groups. Some come up with their own songs and get to record them, too, before producing a music video. On one recent sunny weekday, they took the show on the road to Wellington Street, which turned into a pedestrian mall for the summer.
They entertained the lunch crowd for about an hour, even though most had only rehearsed for a few days.
School of Rock founder Patrick Mainville says he was inspired by the Hollywood comedy of the same name.
“You can be without skills,” he said. “We'll put it to your level, so you can enjoy playing with the other bands.”
“The secret is to learn to play music by playing songs”
The crunch, feedback, and sharp twangs are all music to parent's ears.
“They’re not left on their own” explains parent Melissa Maya Falkenberg, who says she signed-up her daughter because everyone in her family loves music. “They take courses, but most of all, my daughter tells me she feels free when playing music”