Rock-n-Roll Academy Helps Middle Schoolers “Come Together”

Who hasn’t dreamed of being in a band? The four-week Rock-n-Roll Academy at University Lake School makes that dream come true for students in grades 5-8. Mentored by Academy facilitator Peter Humphrey-Loving and working in two sound-proof practice rooms fully stocked with audio equipment and instruments, students form bands, decide on their roles (vocals, guitar, drummer, etc.), pick a name and then a song to learn and rehearse, all while navigating complex group dynamics.

Following the Academy’s two mottos—‘Seek Mystery – Not Answers,” and “Student Voice, Student Choice”—students practice good listening and communication skills, and discover how to advocate for their opinion while learning to compromise. Their ultimate mission is a public performance before peers, teachers, and families. “It’s really fun,” says rising sixth grader Madison, “but it takes a lot of practice and a lot of discussing in order to make a good band and play a good song.”

The musical component is actually secondary to the leadership and personal development aspect. Taught in a very non-threatening manner, students don’t need any musical experience to have success—reading music isn’t even necessary. They listen to recordings, then listen, negotiate, and collaborate with each other until they’re ready for the show.

“A public performance of their work is a great motivator to encourage students to come together as a band and work through the interpersonal complexities,” says Mr. Humphrey-Loving. Students also acquire valuable leadership and interpersonal skills they can apply to new activities and experiences to come—in the upper school and for the rest of their lives.

Does your school do something similar?

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