School of Rock Franchise Opens Katy Outpost

It was hard not to use a famous Who song as our headline here. But Katy, the Houston exurb known for Katy High's football dominance, now has a different kind of after-school practice for its youth.

For the past few weeks, about 20 area Katy-area kids between ages seven and 18 have enrolled in School of Rock, the music program that provides both individual and group lessons, and allows the students to perform a concert at the end of the program. According to their instruments, they are cast into different lineups with fellow students rather than grouped into "bands," says Katy franchise owner Mark Bowerman. The more advanced students are working on a "British Invasion" program.

The Katy location is the first School of Rock franchise to open in the Houston area, joining more than 80 locations in 26 states; a Clear Lake location is supposed to open soon. Bowerman says the community reaction has been enthusiastic.

"The feedback that I get from parents, they're encouraged because their kids are excited about it," he says. "In some cases, some kids just don't get excited about too much. It's good to hear those parents say, 'hey listen, my kid loves to come here and is getting a real big kick out of it.'"

A former software engineer, Bowerman discovered the program when he was in a Guitar Center in Austin and inquired about getting drum lessons for his twin ten-year-old sons. The clerk referred him to the School of Rock Austin location. One somewhat unusual career change later, he says the program is becoming a way for parents and kids to discover similar tastes. (Parents, meanwhile probably feel another ring of age growing around them.)

"That's become a big part of it," he says. "One little girl was only eight, a vocalist in our beginner program, and she had been listening to more of these songs that we're doing, like White Stripes and Eels and stuff. She told her mom, 'Yeah mom, I really like listening to your music.' That is awesome."

To relate to the students, Bowerman says he'll use American Idol as a reference point to teach students about the Aerosmith singer's real job. But kids who come in wanting to sing Katy Perry get redirected quickly.

"First of all, I think it's great, because it at least shows their interest in music," Bowerman says. "We don't do that kind of genre of music, but with those kinds of kinds it's not that difficult to get them interested. You can always find some hook for that."

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Several Houston-area musicians are already onboard as School of Rock instructors, including Something Fierce's Nikki Seven as the bass teacher. Another local punk rocker, Randy Rost of Black Market Syndicate, is one of the guitar instructors, and onetime American Idol vocalist Cady Malloy is a vocal coach.

School of Rock offers programs for students with some musical experience and a Rock 101 course for beginners. This is the Bible Belt, though, so Bowerman says he is careful that the music used in both is not too rock and roll.

"We're obviously really sensitive to that here, particularly the area of the country that we live in," he says. "I think it's different for different schools all over the country, but there's usually some pretty obvious songs in terms of what you can't do. I think what we want to strive for is that the comfort level with the parents - and the kids as well - is all there.

Primarily I want to be up front and open with the parents about the material we want to try to do, sharing lyrics and that kind of stuff to make sure everybody's on board with that," adds Bowerman. "But it's School of Rock, so I think there's some level of implied content there. We try to stay as true to the music as we can."

The school has been opening in a few weeks, and the students are about to start rehearsals for the British Invasion program. It is having a Grand Opening party starting at 1 p.m. Saturday, with a performance by the Austin School of Rock All-Stars.

Now we can say it: The kids are alright.

School of Rock Katy is located at 3750 S. Mason Rd., Ste. 800. Hours are 3-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday.

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

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