There’s little doubt that the 2003 film School of Rock starring Jack Black was a smash success at the box office and a pop-culture landmark. But who knew that Black’s maniacal, yet endearing character—screaming the falsetto howls of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” while driving his beat-up van full of students from a prestigious prep school on the road to rock ’n’ roll fantasy—was based on a real music educator? And that the model of success created in 1998 by that musician and music educator Paul Green of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania—formed the basis of an international franchise found in 200 global markets and credited with teaching more than 30,000 aspiring musicians?
“It’s all about learning how to play music and rocking out,” says New Orleans Suspects keyboardist CR Gruver, who this month opens the first New Orleans–area School of Rock (the only other Louisiana location opened recently in Baton Rouge).
“Students will come in for lessons twice a week,” Gruver continues, “and grouped into different age and experience levels, from four-year-olds up to adults. Once the individual lessons are done, we give them the opportunity to perform with other kids, which teaches them about group dynamics and interaction with others. We have semesters, just like a regular school, and the idea is to prepare them over the course of a semester to put on a show. This gives the experience of a real gig at a real venue in front of a real audience.”
In this concept, parents will buy a package for one semester that best suits their child. Packages offered include Little Wing (for ages 4–5, with a focus on group-oriented instruction), Rookies (ages 6–8, offering those who don’t have experience to learn on such developmental instruments as one-string bass basses), Rock 101 (for those with little experience, geared toward one-on-one lessons and shorter group rehearsals), and Premier, for advanced students up to age 18 and offering three-hour rehearsals. “We also offer packages for any adult that’s ever wanted to rock out in a band,” Gruver says.
Gruver’s franchise also looks to partner with the Rock and Roll Dream Foundation to obtain funds, through private donors and grants that will create scholarships for kids who can’t afford the tuition to take classes from School of Rock. “It’ll be merit- and financial need-based, along with an essay on why they want to do this,” he explains of the scholarship process. “The whole idea is to make this a community school and bring music education to kids who couldn’t otherwise access it.”
“This is not going to stop the Suspects,” Gruver says of his main gig. “We played 92 gigs in 2017, so our touring isn’t too intensive. Plus I have a rock-star general manager in Jessica Troske, who can handle everything the days I’m gone. We hope to have 100 students and 10 instructors involved by the end of the year and to keep growing from there.”
CR Gruver’s School of Rock (1907 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 504.618.ROCK) celebrates its grand opening on July 14.