School of Rock opens in Johns Creek

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – You say you want to get those kids out of the garage because their band amps keep shorting out the TV and you can’t watch the game?

You say you want to give those kids some positive feedback while trying to find a musical identity?

You say you always wanted to be a rock star but time has passed you by?

Well it’s time to get back to school, then. The School of Rock that is, which just opened in Johns Creek at the corner of Abbotts Bridge and Medlock Bridge roads.

Ben and Christina Simms are the young entrepreneurs who opened the 135th School of Rock worldwide Aug. 22. In true rock and roll fashion, they did not have Mayor Mike Bodker cut the ribbon, rather he smashed a guitar a la Pete Townshend.

But the Simms are serious about the music despite the antics at the opening, and they say they chose Johns Creek for a reason.

“First, we want to thank the mayor and council and the Johns Creek Chamber of Commerce for making us not only so welcome here, but for their help in making the opening of our business so smooth,” Ben said.

“We’re honored to be a part of such a great arts city. We think this is the perfect place to teach people to not only rock in music, but to rock in life.”

And while rock is the basis of what they do, it is all about teaching music to students who have been as young as 4 and as old as 80.

Christina said the music is also a tool for students to learn life skills as well. They learn to master a piece of music, and it gives them confidence to set a task and accomplish it.

They learn the confidence to go before a large group or audience that will serve them in any endeavor. And they will learn an appreciation of music that will be deeper and more complete, she said.

The couple each has an MBA and they thought a lot about what sort of business they would choose to launch their career. They even considered a butcher shop, but looking at the School of Rock prospectus, Christina said they knew this was the opportunity for them.

“We both love the arts. We have always had that side. We also wanted to do something that would let us give back to the community,” said Christina. “And we just love Johns Creek’s commitment to the arts. It is a real arts community.”

Ben said the great thing about School of Rock is that anyone can sign up at any age or skill level.

Two visitors for the opening ceremony signed up for lessons that day. Johns Creek Chamber of Commerce Chairman Kent Davies sat in one of the classrooms and decided it was something he had wanted to do.

“I have a grandson who plays piano and is learning guitar. I told him I would play with him one day. It’ll be awesome,” Davies said. “This will be a way to connect with him from one generation to another.”

ReMax realtor Cleve Gaddis was another visitor who got the bug and enrolled right away.

“I always wanted to play the drums, so signed up,” Gaddis said matter-of-factly.

Ben said that is not unusual to get “more mature” enthusiasts to sign up after seeing the layout.

“We have programs for all ages,” he said. “Our lessons are a bit different from others. We teach our students to perform. In three or four months, they will be playing in a live show.”

And they will be taught to play in groups and ensembles, so they learn faster and learn to play more collaboratively,” Ben said.

“They learn to play with others, not in a vacuum. That is the way most professionals play – as part of a group, band or symphony,” he said.

The classes are taught for a semester – they call it a session. And the end of that session, they will play in a group and give a show, he said.

For the best of the best, there are the School of Rock All-Stars. They will play gigs together and compete at School of Rock concerts. Each year, top School of Rock students play in a rock concert tour the month of July and play at major venues across the country.

Asked which came first, the school or the movie of the same name, Christina says the school.

“Originally, it was supposed to be a documentary about School of Rock, but when Jack Black got involved, it quickly became a comedy,” she said. “But when you watch the movie, how he teaches the kids to play is exactly how we teach.”

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