Looking upon the stage from the top of Red Rocks Amphitheater, I saw a rock band decked to the nines in flared pants, tie-dye and bandanas. I heard what I presumed to be an adult opening act covering classic rock favorites — it wasn’t until I reached the front row that I realized the person clad in an elaborate glam-rock outfit was Ethan, a tyke from Boulder, who tore up the mic with a swagger expected of someone who has reached double digits.
Boulder- and Denver-based School of Rock organizations put on a lively show for family, friends and the media at Red Rocks Amphitheater on Tuesday. Though the kids, who ranged in age from 7 to 17, were supposed to be opening for the theater’s Film on the Rocks screening of Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World
, it quickly became clear that the musical entertainment far surpassed the cinematic.
The School of Rock is a franchise company that has locations spread throughout the U.S. and Mexico. The Boulder and Denver locations teamed up to present a two-hour live performance that entertained more than just the parents in the audience — the kids all exuded a confidence in their abilities that matched their skill and stage presence. While the basic intention of School of Rock enrollment may have been to occupy a 9-year-old’s dull summer with something more dynamic than the TV remote, it becomes clear that these kids recognize the intricate nature of rock and roll and serve up a fresh take on classic hits.
Prince would have been proud of the School of Rock’s rendition of “Purple Rain.” Max, a bean-stalk with jet black hair, exuded confidence in his verbal communication with the crowd, but checked in with his voice regularly as his hands grazed to his throat during his vocal performance of Prince’s hit. Max’s green Franz Ferdinand shirt matched his rock sensibility and charisma as a young frontman, his wrap-up of “Purple Rain” left photographs clapping alongside eager parents and supportive friends.
Each participant was given the opportunity to grab the audience’s attention with their music. Some kids rotated from vocals to bass and back again, while others rocked solos and costumes that caused giggles — Kevin Netz, 16, is a badass keytar player who is allegedly known as “the wizard” among his band mates because of his warlock hat, but also for his magic sense of melody.
From what can be gauged from the performance, the School of Rock program seems to be a tool that allows kids to side-step or work through the self-consciousnesses and uncertainty that usually brews in adolescents. Empowering young girls, like Mari, to feel comfortable picking up the microphone for one song and the bass guitar for another, the only sense of nerves being a shy smile as the band leads into a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Time,” is an accomplishment. Paradise, who recently turned 13 (according to the photographer working for the SOR), sang with a soulful depth of someone far beyond her years, in terms of age and life experiences.
Jake Furgason exuded the most confidence and charisma on stage. He is known as an all star for the School of Rock Denver House band and wasn’t afraid to wear sunglasses on stage and arch his back with guitar in the air if the beat beckoned.
Vinny Appice, an accomplished rock drummer, once shared the stage with Black Sabbath. This time, he kept the rhythm for the bands playing at the early stages of the performance, leaving for back stage as the night continued. Andy “Rok” Guerrero, known for his work with Bop Skizzum and the Flobots came on stage for about three songs midway through the performance.
While backstage briefly, I asked a group of giggling performers if they were nervous on stage, the girls smiled, a little perplexed by the question, and said “nope, not really.”
Correction: A previous version of this article described the child named Ethan as a guitar player. He does not, in fact, play guitar. The article has been amended to reflect this change.