Professional sound checks. Jam sessions. All-access backstage passes. Five-star catering. And a performance in front of 15,000 cheering fans.
For four Cornelius School of Rock musicians, Friday June 15 was unlike any other. They ended the night on stage at the PNC Pavilion, accompanying the band Rascal Flatts in an encore performance of “Life is a Highway.”
“I’ll never forget the moment they called School of Rock on stage,” said James Randolph, 13, a rising eighth grader at Brawley Middle School. He plays guitar and bass in the School of Rock
“I was insanely nervous, but once we started, the nerves went away and it was so much fun,” he said. Performing with him were drummer Eric Serbinowski, 14, keyboardist Dylan Aguilar, 14, and vocalist Maddie Porter, 17 – all School of Rock House Band mates.
That moment on stage followed a day of exposure and access few young musicians get – they met with sound technicians, ran the song with professional session musicians, had a jam session with the band and got one-on-one advice from industry professionals.
“Because we’re a performance-based music school, we try to offer experiences like these to all our students,” School of Rock General Manager Eric Williams said. “It’s a bonus of being a good musician in the performance program here.”
School of Rock leaders constantly seek opportunities for students to perform and to interact with working musicians, he said. In advance of Rascal Flatt’s Charlotte show, School of Rock owner Shawn Garrity contacted the band see if they could arrange a meet-and-greet with some students. The result was better than anyone hoped for.
The students had about a week to learn the song, with limited time to practice together before the big day. That experience, coupled with the professional tips, tricks, and lessons learned while back stage that Friday, complement and enhance the students’ learning at School of Rock.
“I’ve been able to incorporate a lot of what I learned that day about stage presence,” said Randolph. “And, I learned that [guitar] pick throwing takes practice.”