Fort Wayne’s musical community is growing, as the Fort Wayne School of Rock held its grand opening last Saturday with a special Halloween celebration.
Parents were able to check out the facilities and met instructors while their kids ran around collecting candy, banging on drums and exploring all of the available instruments on display.
You may remember the School of Rock from the 2003 film featuring Jack Black as an inappropriate substitute teacher who replaces regular classes with music lessons for his students.
The actual School of Rock program has 160 locations across the United States with the purpose of educating young, aspiring musicians on the nuances of an instrument, craft, and performance. Attendees were also treated to a special performance from the Carmel School of Rock house band.
Before Saturday, Carmel was the only city in Indiana to have one, but then Franchisee Mark McKibben decided it was time to bring it to Fort Wayne.
“The main thing is, we have a great population here, so there’s a lot of people here,” said McKibben. “It’s not a big city, but it’s not really a small town either, you know what I mean? So it’s a good place to be. A lot of families in Fort Wayne too; a lot of families, a lot of kids.”
McKibben is a musician himself, but has spent the majority of his professional life away from his instrument in another field.
“I was actually in the car business for the last thirteen years, which I wasn’t made to do,” he said with a laugh. “You know, I enjoyed working and enjoyed what I did, but I was never really passionate, I’m not a car guy or anything like that. And so, when I discovered the School of Rock, I think about, ‘Man, how awesome would it have been if they had that when I was a kid,’ right?”
For McKibben, it’s time to pass the torch.
He says while it may be too late for him to live out his dreams as a rockstar, he can make up for lost opportunities by ushering in a new generation of talent.
“I always loved music, even all through the years, really, you know… Music is a big part of my life,” he said. “And so, when I discovered the School of Rock, you know, and I learned more about it, and then not only the music aspect of it but also encouraging kids, and the combination of those two things is what really helped me believe I was made to do this.”
Fort Wayne’s School of Rock hasn’t begun classes yet, but alums have been on hand to help with the grand opening.
20-year-old Fort Wayne resident Parker Worpell graduated from the School of Rock in Chicago two years ago and specialized on a variety of instruments during his time.
He says he went into the program to become the next Angus Young of AC/DC, but soon learned the value of being diverse as a musician. His desire to learn as much as he could while attending the School of Rock has made him the farthest thing from the next great guitar player.
“About the time that I was leaving the School of Rock, I had just gotten into house music,” said Worpell. “I’ve got the whole setup at home; I’ve got the microphone to record, I’ve got guitars, basses, keyboard. I’ve got the whole nine yards. And even though I’m not doing anything music-wise as a professional, I feel completely comfortable with who I am and I’m completely confident with all the music that I do.”
Worpell says his experience with the School of Rock was invaluable not just for paving his musical path, but also for his life.
“I think the most important thing that I learned is that there are no limitations to what you can do,” he said. “And if you want to do something and you’re willing to put in the time and effort into it and make the sacrifices, you can do whatever you want even if people tell you that you can’t.”
McKibben hopes that any kid who participates in the School of Rock in Fort Wayne graduates some day with more than just a basic understanding of their instrument or craft.
“They learn things like self-confidence by getting up on stage,” McKibben said. “In any situation, in a professional situation whether it’s a job or a family, you’re always going to have other people you’re going to have to interact with and you’re going to have to learn to compromise and all that kind of stuff.”
Classes have yet to begin at the Fort Wayne School of Rock, but enrollment is open with a series of weekend open houses through November. Kids as young as three can be enrolled, and most child performers, like Parker Worpell, graduate when they turn 18.
And if you’re a grown adult but still have dreams of forming the next Led Zeppelin, the School of Rock offers adult programs, too.