THE DETROIT FREE PRESS
BY BILL LAITNER • FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER • July 23, 2008
There’s a new beat in metro Detroit music studios that’s less about practicing, more about performing — even if you have braces and a sunburn.
Just south of downtown Royal Oak, the Detroit School of Rock and Pop Music opened in May and already is set to put students onstage.
Four of its bands will play from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Royal Oak’s Memphis Smoke nightclub. That’s thrilling the ad hoc groups with names like the unOriginals, Watership Down and Royal Clinton Heights — the latter a mixture of the cities the kids hail from: Royal Oak, Clinton Township and Sterling Heights.
Drummer Alie Miller, 13, of Birmingham watched bandmates perfecting a guitar bit last week and said, “Before this, I couldn’t really play with other people.
“Now, I’m doing a lot of stuff you couldn’t do with just a regular garage band.”
School founder Jason Gittinger, 30, of Warren, a former rock drummer-turned-teacher, charges $299 per month for Student Band Production, which includes a weekly half-hour private lesson plus a 2-hour band rehearsal with a producer. Already enrolled are 30 regulars, ages 9 to 40.
“It’s working out,” Gittinger said, sounding surprised at his success, which stems in part from the swelling sales of instruments — mainly electric guitars, which in 2007 outsold traditional horns and reeds by three to one, according to the National Association of Music Merchants.
Like kids demanding costly hockey gear or skis, aspiring rockers get Mom and Dad to lay out serious bucks, said Terry Longhway, 35, owner of the Paul Green School of Rock Music in Rochester, which opened in December.
“Guitars get well up into the thousands” of dollars, and “parents may decide it’s a worthwhile investment,” Longhway said. His school has 70 students and expects an additional 25 for the summer camp in August.
In a rehearsal last week at the Royal Oak rock school, Joe Silver, 14, of Huntington Woods plucked his Fender Stratocaster 6-string electric guitar, while Bubba Ayoub, 14, of Warren thumped his Rickenbacker bass guitar and teacher Brent Nagy looked on.
“It’s bom bom badda, OK? Let’s do it again,” said Nagy, 31, of Ferndale.
Turning to a visitor, he said: “This is ‘The Ocean’ by Led Zeppelin. It has time changes, so it’s difficult to pull off.”
So how do you get to Memphis Smoke? Practice.
Contact BILL LAITNER at 248-351-3297.