A Hamburg Township music instructor is giving young musicians the real world experience of what it’s like to play in a rock band.

Scott Christopher is the owner and lead music instructor at the Buzztop Studios Music School. While instructing and giving lessons for nearly 3 decades, Christopher noticed a lack of opportunities for guitar students to perform. Not satisfied with having them stand on stage by themselves, he wanted to learn like he did- by playing in a band. Over the past 7 years, Christopher has begun inviting students he instructs to graduate into a “School of Rock-style” rock band class, with the goal of getting them to play live shows.

In class, students learn to play with other musicians in a rock, pop, or even country band. They get into rhythm and timing, learning their stage and live gear, and how to prepare for a gig. Christopher said there are even real world lessons that the students will learn that carry on through life. He said that it is ultimately about the kids forming a group, having a goal, and working together to achieve it. He used the analogy that it is like a college class where you start to learn and form a team. Then you become an adult and learn to work with others. He continued by saying, “Even if you’re like, ‘I’m not sure that’s the way to do it,’ (the students) find a way to work through the songs together. It’s a lot different than playing by yourself in a basement.”

At the end of every 10 week session, the band performs at a live show. The current quintet of players performed this summer at Art in the Park in Pinckney, and at Burrough’s Roadhouse in Brighton. Their setlist of roughly a dozen songs covered 4 decades of rock, including music from Led Zeppelin to Radiohead to the White Stripes. Christopher said it’s not unusual for parents to come into a gig skeptical and leave blown away by what they’ve heard when the whole band is together.

The current group of five (their band is named Plunge), when asked what they liked most about the class, all responded, first, with the friendships they’ve formed through it. They got a kick out of being on stage, as well.10th grade bass player Annabelle Sharp said that coming off stage with people cheering you is really good to hear after all the work and effort you put in as a group.

Twelve year old drummer Nate Oseland says he feels nerves before they play, but once he gets into the swing of things, everything starts to settle down. Oseland said he realized at one point that when his nerves kick in, it actually starts to help him focus. 9th grade guitarist Ciel Mandzuik said that seeing the audience dancing and having a good time is a sign that she is doing her job well. 8th grade guitarist Miguel Deras said he’s more comfortable in the recording studio, but he finds it rewarding to come off stage after performing for others. 10th grade keyboard player Ava Taube said she was never into this kind of music before joining the class, but that it’s really broadened her horizons. She said being up on stage and seeing people get into their music is one of the coolest things she can think of.

Christopher is starting a new semester of Rock Band Class the 2nd week of September. A certain base skill level is required for getting into the class, and it’s limited to students in grade school. (MK)