Students rock the stage in School of Rock


Courtesy of Paden Guido

Paden Guido, sophomore, approaches the microphone and sings a few verses of the song she has been practicing all week as Joe Kunze, sophomore, carefully tunes his guitar. Karl McConnell, sophomore, takes his place in the sound booth, making sure his bandmates’ chords and vocals are perfectly balanced, as the three musicians prepare themselves for their upcoming gig at their latest venue.

These musicians are not professional artists; they are Central students enrolled in the School of Rock music program in Hinsdale, a program that pushes kids to perform at various venues in the Chicagoland area.

Guido, Kunze, and McConnell, are part of an elite band in the school called “House Band.” Students involved in House Band take on a more rigorous schedule compared to other students in performance groups, playing a gig every other weekend as opposed to a gig every three months.

“[Being in House Band requires] way more responsibility,” Kunze said. “You’ve already proven yourself to be a good musician as well as a good leader.”

The students have formed long-lasting relationships by being thrown into a band with other musicians their age.

“I have people to relate to now, about [music], instead of just my friends being like, ‘Oh Paden, you sing so much, shut up,’” Guido said. “[My bandmates] really understand.”

While Guido, Kunze, and McConnell all agreed that playing a different gig at a new venue every other weekend is a major perk of being in School of Rock, Kunze does not see every reward of the program as solely self-indulgent.

“It’s not just playing (the gigs), it’s playing the songs and having people enjoy them, and seeing their faces when they enjoy the songs,” Kunze said.

The musicians agreed that the worst part of being in House Band is the associated pressure, but the extra strain is not necessarily negative.

“It’s a different stress from school,” Guido said. “For me, it’s a good stress. It’s practicing something I love to do and I want to do for the rest of my life.”

Previously, decisions as far as membership in House Band had solely been based on overall observations as far as the students’ musical abilities as well as their character, but the school recently adopted a new audition system, which accounts for McConnell’s place in the group.

“[When I started to play bass], I was struggling with Rock 101 songs that they have children play, and I was still playing worse than [the children],” McConnell said. “I just worked a lot, and [my band mates and instructors] pushed me enough so I could advance. Eventually, I just tried out, and I got [into House Band].”

While the school certainly exposes its students to the glamorous side of stardom by allowing the kids to follow in the footsteps of rock legends, it also exposes them to certain responsibilities attached to the rock star life.

“[School of Rock] shows you what being in a band professionally is like, and I think that was good because we never really saw that side of having music and playing it for a career, we all just saw the fun part of it,” Guido said. “It taught us how laborious it is to tear down and set up all of your equipment by yourself, and how quickly and efficiently you have to do it all.”

Guido and Kunze both plan to pursue educations as performers, but McConnell expressed an interest in a career behind the scenes.

“What I’ve been doing with my instructor during some gigs is, he lets me work the sound,” McConnell said. “What I hope to do when I grow up is to work a PA system for bands that are playing at some local bar or restaurant.”