By Jon Garvin
Rock Band is an Expeditions course offered at Summit Prep in cooperation with the Riekes Center for Human Enhancement, a nonprofit organization that offers many programs for the community to take part in.
Students enrolled in this course meet at the Riekes Center, which is located in North Fair Oaks, in close proximity to Summit Prep. Students are encouraged to learn about music theory, learn new instruments and have fun.
Walking through the class feels like something out of a movie. Students split into groups to use the many instruments the Riekes Center offers in order to learn and play songs together in a mini band. The instruments include piano, bass, guitar, drums, vocals and percussion.
Students pick a song from an array of options, some being “Halo” by Beyoncé, “Marry You” by Bruno Mars, “Wish I Knew You” by The Revivalists and many more. They then decide how the instruments get divided up and start teaching themselves and each other the songs.
The Riekes Center coordinators enter their sessions to help students where needed throughout the two-week Expeditions periods. At the end of the week, students perform for each other.
The Rock Band class helps students connect on a deeper level to something they already deem important: music. It gives the students tools and resources to either learn how to play an instrument or refine their skills on a new instrument.
While sitting in a group’s sessions, one would notice the initial meeting of the classmates, who vary from all different grades. The students would then start playing their instruments in order to get a feel of their new group. Then students would begin collaborating to figure out the best way to perform their song.
Students learn more than just how to play an instrument for a specific song. Summit Prep junior Luke Desmarais said, “I’ve learned how to read music and how to break it apart and break it down.”
Students’ perception of music also changes due to the collaboration opportunities this course offers. Matthew Tognotti, a Summit Prep junior, said, “I see it as more of like a group effort. Like working together with other people to make music.”
Bennett Roth-Newell, the Music and Creative Arts Director at the Riekes Center, is one of the supervisors of this course. He said, “The structure of the class is mostly based on playing music with a group, getting familiar with playing an instrument and then how that instrument’s role functions in the entirety of an ensemble.”
Mr. Roth-Newell also said that a student’s main takeaway is getting a shot at experiencing playing music. He explained, “To me, it seems like a lot of students are getting their first or first few experiences of playing music and getting a chance to give this a shot or even getting exposed to it. [Had] they not had this in their Expeditions, maybe it wouldn’t’ve been part of their life at all.” He also said that his students are becoming more well-rounded individuals.
Megan Mayo, a Summit Prep sophomore, has learned how to play bass during this course. Mayo said that a key takeaway she’s taken from this course is to “never give up. Even when you don’t know anything or like it’s really hard.”
The resilience Mayo spoke about is one quality that Mr. Roth-Newell said students interested in taking the course should have. He said, “Just be prepared to give the best effort that you can. Really that’s all that we could ask of a student to do. To try their hardest and while doing so continue to keep up the core cultural values of the Riekes Center where honest communication, self-supervision and sensitivity to others thrives throughout all the programs – not just music – but throughout all the programs we do here.”
See below for a video about the Rock Band course: