School of Rock Mokena continues to strike a chord with young rockers
Since opening in 2011, School of Rock Mokena has shown that it is in it for the right rhyme and reason.
“I think it’s just proof positive that we’re here to support the arts,” School of Rock Mokena General Manager Kathy Gentile said, noting that the school’s tagline is “Saving rock ‘n’ roll, one kid at a time.”
“[We’re] introducing music to the area, making sure we keep it alive and going,” Gentile said.
In 2018, the educational company that operates and franchises the Mokena location is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
School of Rock currently has 200 educational programs located around the globe.
“I think that it’s fantastic that [School of Rock] been going for 20 years, and it’s still growing,” School of Rock Mokena Owner Mark Doyle said. “It’s obviously a concept that works, and it’s great for the kids everywhere.”
Compared to similar type operations, School of Rock separates itself with its performance program.
“Unlike just regular lessons, which I certainly grew up with, this gives kids the experience and opportunity to be on a stage and be part of a band as part of their learning process,” Gentile said. “[It’s] like the team sport of music.”
School of Rock Mokena Studio Coordinator Zack Marshall agreed.
“I think that keeping that craft of music playing, but then also adding the ability to share that with other students and helping them form their own bands, seeing that go on for 20 years is, I think, is pretty impactful, plain to see,” he said.
School of Rock Mokena is all about curating a new generation of music-minded students who get to balance education with all the fun and awesomeness of a great jam session, according to its website.
Gentile has worked at the Mokena location the last six years.
“I’ve had several students for several years, and that’s the rewarding part of it,” Gentile said. “It’s to see how [the school] changes over time and the confidence [students’ begin to exude] and just the experience.”
Consider Marshall, a past student of School of Rock Mokena. He currently works as the program’s studio coordinator after being enrolled as a student in it for several years.
“From being a student and working here, I’ve gotten to see people not even know what instrument they want to play and now, we have them playing the main stages at Summerfest in Milwaukee,” Marshall said. “They came in here not even knowing what they wanted to play, much less how to play it. I got to grow up with a lot of those people.”
About five years ago, he decided to check out the Mokena program after hearing about it.
“It sounded just different from your normal, like, playing sports or going home and playing for mom and dad,” Marshall said. “I think the whole band aspect of it really made it something that peaked my interest a lot more.”
Prior to enrolling in School of Rock Mokena, Marshall had completed some drum lessons at home.
“This was the first time I started to take music seriously is when I started taking lessons here,” he said.
Since then, Marshall said he has drawn inspiration from School of Rock Mokena staff. He said having instructors that teach, as well as play in local bands, has been a transformative part of his music education.
“Getting to see that they’re literally practicing what they preach and it’s working out successfully for them, I think, is a huge inspiration,” Marshall said. “Instead of just having someone come to your house [and say,] ‘This is what someone taught me, so now I’m going to teach it to you.’ It’s actually being put into use for themselves.”
Marshall is currently enrolled in community college and completing his general education coursework. He has some plans in mind to put his passion for music to use as a possible stage or tour manager.
“Hopefully, [I’ll] get some degree in some type of music [program,]” Marshall said.
Marshall gave credit to School of Rock Mokena’s Music Director Joe Gentile for mentoring him over the years.
“I think that he does a great job of keeping everybody’s individual interests and everybody’s strengths and weaknesses in mind when he’s casting for songs,” Marshall said.
Kathy acknowledged that Joe does a great job and said the group experience is a big part of what makes School of Rock work the way it does.
“We want to give the band experience, which is one thing, but then to appropriately challenge all of the students, so that they’re learning techniques,” she said. “We’re pushing them just a little bit to expose [them] to different experiences on stage.”
Doyle recently took over ownership of the Mokena location and is excited to carry out the traditions set forth by School of Rock.
“[I] just love watching the kids, and I’m excited to see new kids come in and grow through the system,” he said.
Doyle’s vision for the Mokena location’s future is simple.
“We’re just looking to keep growing,” he said. “They’ve been doing a great job, here, getting more and more kids in here. I look forward to that continuing.”