By: Jessica Thomas
A little boy in a too-big 2008 Van Halen Concert Tour t-shirt would not normally be taken seriously as a musician.
But seven-year-old Ethan Senger, an Acworth resident and student of the Paul Green School of Rock Music in Buckhead, shocks everyone when he saunters into a room filled with children older than he is, calmly pulls out his guitar and starts playing.
Since the Paul Green School of Rock Music opened in Buckhead in February, Ethan’s goal of becoming a rock star is now closer to reality.
The Paul Green School of Rock Music, which is located at 321 Pharr Road, is a music school which caters to students ages 8 through 18 and grooms them to become well-trained, talented musicians, says general manager Justin Nihiser.
The Paul Green School of Rock Music was established in Philadelphia in 1998 and has grown to more than 30 schools nationwide. The hit movie “School of Rock” with Jack Black was loosely based on Green’s school.
The school employs Paul Green’s unique method of teaching music to children. Nihiser says that Green had a band in the 1990’s and wanted to give the children real life experiences. So he brought his students to his rehearsal space to practice and learn how to play music.
Green had them play songs from classic rock musicians from the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s, such as Cream, Jimmy Hendrix, Frank Zappa, and Kurt Cobain, notes Nihiser, a graduate of the Berkley College of Music.
Students at the school receive 45-minute private lessons on the instrument of their choice, whether it is guitar, drums, bass or keyboard, and they also participate in weekly three-hour supervised rehearsals.
“The combination of private lessons with skilled musicians that have real life experience and group band practice with peers has proven to be an ideal way to motivate and inspire kids,” says Greg Lee, the school’s music director and one of Atlanta’s more recognized musicians.
Performing music in a group setting also helps children build self-confidence and overcome their stage fright, adds Nihiser.
During the private lessons, students use 30 minutes to play chords, scales, and practice how to read music. They use the last 15 minutes to discuss the different songs they are playing. All of this is designed to help the students prepare for the culmination of their efforts – a live rock show at a local venue. This season they will perform Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.”
In addition to the weekly lessons and rehearsals, the school holds rock classes, open jams, and seminars with themes such as song writing, music business 101, tightening up the rhythm section, what really goes into a tour, how to get gigs and promote your band. The school also arranges for professional, touring musicians to meet, talk and jam with the students at the school, says Nihiser.
Nihiser hopes that in the near future, they will be able to add another location of the school in Alpharetta. But for now there are people driving from all over metro Atlanta to the Buckhead location.
Three 16-week seasons are offered a year, and enrollment is open now for the summer session. The school is open Monday through Saturday, 3:00 to 8:00 p.m.