Saturday, May 5, 2012

Senior Citizens Ball

“We all wanna be big stars / but we don’t know why / and we don’t know how” —Counting Crows, "Mr. Jones"
British Invasion, February 2009
Last night, I attended the Senior Citizens Ball. The place was full of rockers. It was a bittersweet celebration, because the honorees would soon be gone. This was the last seasonal performance of thirteen graduating seniors of the Baltimore School of Rock.

We joined SoR because I was working on a book proposal—something about how you can be a rockstar at any age. (Because who didn’t dream of being a star something at one time? And who doesn’t have a midlife crisis and a spare ten grand to attend a fantasy camp to address it?)

Serena was ten and learning how to play guitar, so I dragged her to the 8x10 for the SoR’s tribute to David Bowie. She was reluctant but, by the end of the night, convinced. She’d go for a season to help out her mom. 

Show Team, Jr. Hunt Cup, April 2012
Four years and nearly 20 shows later, Serena is on the School of Rock’s Show Team and is about to start her sax-ademic career at the Baltimore School for the Arts. She is a confident, well-adjusted, creative, smart, nice girl. She’s a leader and a team player. Of course, I can credit her ultra-hip, uber-great parents. I can credit her education. I can credit her community—friends, family, relationships, neighborhood. But a good chunk of it goes to the School of Rock, who influences her for upwards of ten hours a week.

Awesome Ted Merrill, Graduate
In the last four years, we’ve seen some pretty average kids come through SoR’s doors. But we have seen so many of them turn into remarkable kids with extraordinary talent. They work hard. They play harder. But you know what else? Most of them are nice. Really nice. They are kind to us. They are respectful. They are good to my daughter.

Nice doesn’t get nearly enough credit. But think about it: Are you rooting for the nasty brat to get a Grammy? Should The Voice belong to a bitch? Should the American Idol be a back stabber? We have enough of those.

My agent and a few of my friends have always been a little suspicious of this cult that is the School of Rock. How rock and roll is it, they want to know, to have your parents pay for lessons (as if there were another way to get them)? How cool is it to play a club in front of your family and friends?

Phenomenal Ian Viera, Graduate
Cooler than singing into a hairbrush. Cooler than playing air guitar in front of a mirror. Cooler than being good at Rock Band. Even cooler than teaching yourself to play electric guitar in your bedroom. 

Nothing’s perfect, but it’s hard to argue with these results. Last night, thirteen kids played 22 songs, tunes from bands as diverse as Incubus and Rhianna, My Morning Jacket and Stevie Wonder, Toto and the Black Keys. They were as good as any professional rock band you’ve ever seen. (One of the best of these kids deserves his own shoutout: Ian Viera, the only drummer graduating, played every song, and if he wasn’t perfect, only he knew.)

Brilliant Jack Averill, Graduate
Janet Decker, Mom and SoR Director 
Between songs, some of the kids spoke of their experiences at SoR. You can guess what they said: “I wouldn’t be who I am today without the School of Rock.” “Thanks to my parents for paying and for driving me to the School of Rock.” “Thanks to the School of Rock teachers for inspiring us to be our best.”

A friend asked Janet Decker, the school’s director, which kid was hers. “All of them,” she said. And she wasn’t exaggerating. They’re my kids, too. And I am proud of every single one of them.

So congratulations to my kids: Jack Averill, Lindsay Baer, Evan Cooper, Will Fedder, Jordan Lagana, Meghan Malenski, Ted Merrill, Imari Miller, Caroline Myers, Andrew Potthast, Ian Viera, Nick Vogt, and Max Yates. And while we tend toward the figurative use of this phrase, I can say it here literally: You all rock.

And thank you, not just for the entertainment but for being such good people. That puts you way ahead of the crowd.



5 caws:

Aunt Teena said... Best Blogger Tips

What a strangely nice piece you wrote. Your writing is always good, but not always kind. And I believe every word you wrote.

Richard Gilbert said... Best Blogger Tips

How affirming--and sounds like Serena had the perfect mom to find her additional nurturing. The myth that all artists learn solely on their own is ignorant and very hurtful. I guess classical musicians are the only ones supposed to go to school or to learn their craft and art in classes and workshops. Bull.

I believe in nice. Nice is the new cool! Probably not. Was Dylan nice? But cool is more false and wounded in the long run. We live as people, not as artists, and as time goes by the fundamental things apply.

Leslie F. Miller said... Best Blogger Tips

@Aunt Teena I think you have a bad memory. I rarely say unkind things. Rarer still on my blog.


@Richard GilbertAmen. Fundamentals are fundamental. :-D

Stingboy said... Best Blogger Tips

Great blogger, great musical ambassador, great Mom. Yet another wonderful post, Leslie--thank you! If you ever need a bass player for the Miller Family band, call me immediately! <3 Steven D.

John Averill said... Best Blogger Tips

Beautifully put, Leslie. Watching all these young musicians (including Serena and other non-seniors) as they've matured and explored their craft has been a sweet privilege -- a special time and place. I'm going to miss all of them.