Sunday, April 10, 2011

Be it dead or alive...

I can't play one single song on the guitar. Sure, I can play a handful of chords and some scales but that's pretty much it. Despite the fact that I took countless lessons at the Old Town School of Folk in Chicago.

In the late 90s, I took guitar classes at the school's 909 W. Armitage location. There was a Starbucks on the corner of Armitage and Sheffield where I'd stop before class and watch the traffic and the people congregating under the El. After a coffee, I'd walk down Armitage, guitar case in hand, enter the tiny school and get a Rolling Rock at the school's bar. Yes, there was a bar.

I'd sit in the lobby, pull out the lesson for that evening's class and warm up for about 20 minutes or so before class started. Every student seemed to partake in this beautiful ritual...the lobby became a cacophony of disparate sounds (imagine a sonic wall of guitars, banjos, harmonicas, sitars, bongos, voice - none on the same song).

I loved the experience. The Old Town instructors made you feel at home. It was non-competitive and laid back. The school's pedigree is high - John Prine, Roger McGuinn, Bonnie Koloc, Steve GoodmanRobbie FulksNina Gordon (of Veruca Salt) were students at Old Town and Steve Earle was an instructor for a short spell. No matter how terrible a player you were, the school was nurturing. And I learned a lot - in theory.

I practiced daily...for hours. Over the course of years.

But I just couldn't grasp the instrument and maybe that's because the reality was - at least for me - I should have picked up the instrument when I was a kid instead of as an adult.

Flashback - if I could be a kid again, I'd demand that my parents put that guitar in my hands (no matter how much I resisted) and enroll me in a program like the renowned School of Rock. Beyond the Richard Linklater/Jack Black movie, this real educational resource gives kids a fantastic rocka rolla experience from learning how to play an instrument, to developing songwriting skills, and figuring out how to play in a band situation. More than private lessons, its group action -- an experience coupled with gaining a depth of knowledge that can carry through the rest of your life, whether you make a rock career for yourself or end up a corporate hack.


Dear School of Rock,

Maybe I should try this thing again. How about some adult education?

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