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For kids: School of rock 'n' roll

Music lessons at this school include rocking out onstage with a band.

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At the School of Rock, a group of students is getting ready to practice for one of the three big shows at the end of the winter season. Pounding drumbeats echoed and shook the walls of the school's basement. Elijah Berk-Silverman, a 9-year-old with a curly mop of hair, croons the catchy chorus of "Surrender" by Cheap Trick and "We Are the Champions" by Queen, pumping his fist in the air as his band mates groove along with him. The school's music director, Bill Galatis, sings backup harmonies and keeps the band insync from behind the soundboard.

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A bunch of students wander in and out of the rehearsal space as Chris D'Agostino stands behind the keyboard and begins playing a trill of melodies at the start of the song "Lady" by Styx. Mr. Galatis stops Chris and asks him to play the melody again – this time using a different time signature. "Don't worry, there's no pressure. This is why we practice," he says.

Learning group dynamics

This is a perfect demonstration of how the school's emphasis on live performances challenges students to learn to play together.

"They actually have to learn songs, they have to play with other kids, they have to prepare for a gig, and they actually have to do the gig," says Joe Pessia, a guitar and bass teacher at the school.

Mr. Galatis never thought about teaching music lessons until he heard about the school two years ago. Now he's conducting weekly music rehearsals.

"What I can confidentially do is point a kid in the right direction [to listen to great music]. Don't just stick with one type of music ... expand your horizons, learn some things. Even if you don't like someone like Frank Zappa, listen to him," says Mr. Galatis.

For these kids, the rock school is not only a place to learn how to rock out, but a place to make friends.

"You meet a lot of cool people and become friends with them, so that's kinda cool," says Joe Cecere, a guitar student.

Matt Cuddy, a high school student, found out about the school when he was buying a bass guitar at a music store. He joined the school last July and really enjoyed playing in the punk rock show earlier this year.

"You can take guitar lessons, but this is really the only school that offers the full band experience," he says.

Many parents also are enthusiastic about their kids' live shows. "I love watching him up there perform," says Kristen Ferrante, mother of Austin Ferrante, a drum student at the school.

Lionel Goulet, father of Alex Goulet – who plays bass, keyboards, drums, and guitar – says that seeing his son perform is "a thrill every time. Alex has been a musician and performer since Day 1, and I needed to find some place to get him onstage, and this provided that."