School of Rock Spreading Across Houston Suburbs

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Today high-school-age kids seem to be turning their backs on rock and roll like at no other time since rock and roll began, except in one crucial area -- as an after-school activity. Also, when public schools are slashing music-education budgets or even eliminating some music programs altogether, programs like School of Rock are thriving or at least, rather than guitar-shaped video-game controllers.

School of Rock, a for-profit franchise now based in suburban Chicago, has already opened Houston-area locations in Katy last year and Clear Lake (officially) this past weekend. Saturday, School of Rock will make it an even 100 for the franchise with the official grand opening at The Woodlands location. It had a soft opening in December, and the response was immediate.

"The traffic just started coming in," says Marc Reczek, general manager of The Woodlands store. "We've done just a little bit of marketing, but there's so much interest in the school up here that we were able to get kids enrolled in here before we even had furniture."

Reczek, a longtime player in the Houston music scene with the acid-jazz combo Drop Trio and soul-funk stalwarts Little Brother Project, had been managing the School of Rock location in Clear Lake for several months -- that location celebrated its own somewhat belated grand opening just last weekend -- but as a Woodlands resident himself, jumped at the chance to run a school closer to home. His school already has 40 students.

"I was commuting three hours a day to be part of this program because I believe in it," he notes.

The first School of Rock in the Houston area opened last September in Katy. Rezcek says his school has already enrolled 40 students and that on top of that, two more schools are planned for the northern Houston suburbs. His boss, who already owns ten Schools of Rock, wants to add locations in Spring and Kingwood.

School of Rock began when Paul Green, an actual music teacher, opened the first business in Philadelphia in 2002. Of course its popularity exploded once Richard Linklater's 2003 comedy starring Jack Black came out, though ironically, School of Rock screenwriter Mike White claimed to have never heard of Green's program and a documentary following Green's school in its early days was eventually released in 2005 under the name Rock School. (Green sold the company to a group of investors in 2005, and his name was removed.)

Reczek came aboard when he was looking to get out of the financial sector; basically, he was a repo man.

"My job was to go to banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America and get their contracts so we could go pick their cars up," he says. "I had just gone through a divorce. I went to my boss and told him that I needed to go do something else with my life and that I wanted to move on."

His boss at the time understood.

"He said, 'What do you want me to do?' I said, 'I want you to lay me off so I can make looking for work my full-time job.'"

His boss agreed (Reczek says they're still friends), and eventually a counselor he had been meeting with while looking for another corporate job told him to "just go teach a guitar lesson."

"When I did that, I actually found a link for the School of Rock Clear Lake, where he was actually looking for instructors down there," Reczek says.

Within a week, he was running the Clear Lake school. But the commute eventually got to be too much, and Reczek eventually negotiated a new contract to run The Woodlands location. Now he comes to work every day, teaching young minds about the intricacies of Pink Floyd's The Wall (for example), in a place where one wall is painted to look like Eddie Van Halen's famous "Frankenstrat" guitar. And he doesn't even have kids.

"What's cool about it is that I get all the cool parts of being a mentor, of being a good influence, and I get to turn it off," Reczek says. "I get to go home."

School of Rock The Woodlands, 30420 FM 2978 Suite 440, celebrates its Grand Opening tonight, with a performance by the Woodlands school's "Zeppos" and the North Harris Performing Arts dance company, and tomorrow with an open house starting at noon, featuring another Zeppos set, plus free rock clinics and even gymnastics.

For more information on the Houston-area franchises, see the School of Rock Web sites for the Katy, Clear Lake and The Woodlands locations.

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