With Massachusetts franchise owners, Bill Galatis, Shawn Garrity and Ed Jackowski

School of Rock is a performance based music school that offers lessons in guitar, bass, piano, keyboards and vocals. Aside from the individual development aspect, students are grouped together to form bands that ultimately get out into their communities and put on unique shows.

In today’s society, the arts are too often a victim of budget and program cuts — eliminating the opportunity for a child to explore a world of unlimited creativity. Or as a music student, you attend your private lesson and it ends there. The rest is up to you. Do you go home and practice? If its something you enjoy you do, then again, it’s up to you to take the initiative to find like-minded people to play with. How often does a middle school child go to soccer practice continuously without ever having a game?

Enter School of Rock. In addition to focusing on honing a musical craft, School of Rock instills an invaluable confidence in youngsters. As they state on their website — “By taking the focus off the individual and creating a team dynamic, students enjoy a more supportive and motivating environment in which to learn.

As a result, kids feel more inspired to excel and to help their team to victory at the big show. More importantly, the team dynamic makes it fun to practice and allows kids to become more invested in the learning process.”

There are five School of Rock locations in Massachusetts (Waterton/Boston, Lynn, Norwood, Attleboro and Seekonk. Here, we learn firsthand the impact these schools are having on their students on stage and in life.

Bill Galatis: Owner, SoR Boston & Lynn, MA:

My Background:

I’ve been playing in rock bands, writing and recording my own music since I was 15 years old. At the end of 2006, I got a phone call from a pal of mine who answered an ad for “General Manager needed for national Rock School breaking into New England.” He got the job and his first assignment was to find a music director. He called me and I quickly got involved. My pal had taken another job by the beginning of 2007, so after finding a location, building the hype and putting together a team of instructors, I opened the doors in mid 2007. As the music director, I taught lessons, directed rehearsals, managed teachers and spread the mighty word of ROCK to all that stepped through the door. By 2012, I struck a deal with corporate School of Rock, purchased the Watertown location and became a Franchise owner. In January 2015, I opened up the second School of Rock location in Lynn, MA. Today, I take care of business operations and only teach or direct every so often. I have two fantastic managers running the day to day in their respective schools, Joe Pessia in Watertown and Dave Galatis in Lynn.

What Makes School of Rock Unique:

Our performance based approach to education and our no punches pulled performances of some of Rock N’ Roll’s most amazing bands, genres and music that has been given to the world. Every private lesson is catering to that particular students abilities and potential. We make it fun, but everybody works hard.

Our Students:

We’ve had several students involved in the School of Rock All-stars, which are a squad comprised of kids from all over the country who’ve auditioned for their spots. The All-stars is the highest level that a School of Rock student can reach. They tour the country and get a chance to open for all types of acts as well as collaborate with some of Rock N’ Roll’s most legendary figures.

Rock Stars We’ve Mixed With:

We’ve had the privilege of meeting with Dethklok (including Brendan Smalls and Mike Keneally), Matt Cameron (drummer from Pearl Jam and Soundgarden) and the Dropkick Murphys on several occasions.

SoR & Matt Cameron

Shawn Garrity: Co-Owner/Music Director, SoR Seekonk

My Background:

I was brought on as Music Director of the Seekonk school when it opened in 2012. I became co-owner of the school in 2015. My business partner, Phil and I just opened our second school, SoR Cornelius, in Cornelius, NC in October.

What Makes School of Rock Unique:

SoR provides an experience that encompasses every aspect of being a musician — learning songs and theory, putting on a show, time management, interaction with other students and instructors and show directors, working with a deadline, etc. So many of these vital skills are ignored by traditional programs.

Our Students:

We’ve recently performed our seasonal winter shows — We Could Be Heroes (a tribute to artists who passed away in 2016) and Doo Wop at Mardi Gras in Cranston, RI on 1/21 and Experimental Rock at The Met in Pawtucket, RI on 1/28.

We hosted a benefit concert for Tad Beckmann (father of one of our students in need of a liver transplant) on March 9th at Firehouse 13 in Providence, RI, which featured performances by our house band and our two adult bands. We’re also doing a double header at the Narrows Center in Fall River, MA on June 17th. The first show is B-52’s vs R.E.M., the second is The Music of Queen.

Jackson Collins, Nick Martin and Tori Hall are all students of our who have done tours with the SoR All -stars program. Collectively they’ve played Gathering of the Vibes, Lollapalooza, MoPop, Times Square and shared the stage with Jane’s Addiction, The Black Crowes, Ziggy Marley, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Weezer, Haim, Zappa Plays Zappa, Devo and Glass Animals.

Rock Stars We’ve Mixed With:

We have a guitar in our studio signed by Jack Black and Kyle Gass of Tenacious D. They played at Lupo’s a few years ago and allowed our students to watch their sound check and hang out with them a little before their show. We also have a cymbal signed by the Rolling Stones. Charlie Watts’ granddaughter Charlotte Watts was a student at our school, but left a couple years ago to join the Stones on tour. We’ve also done meet and greets for our students with Heart, Queens of the Stone Age, Deer Tick and Oh Malo.

Ed Jackowski: Owner, SoR Norwood, MA

My Background:

When not at School of Rock, I am an active singer in two working bands. My passion for music started at a very young age. At 13 I joined my first band, with co-owner Tom Brunelle. After quitting individual guitar lessons, I used my ear and the help of band-mates to teach myself how to play guitar….proof that the “playing with peers” strategy really works!

My childhood friend Tom Brunelle lives in LA and he had heard a lot about School of Rock as they have several locations out there. He approached me about opening one up here in MA and we looked into it. Our first thought was “I wish they had one of these when WE were kids!”. That’s also the comment I hear in the school from most of the parents that come through the door. So, as an avid musician myself, this was a natural fit when it come to opening a business.

What Makes School of Rock Unique:

Our group programs really set us apart. When kids play together in a group they learn faster because they practice more in order to keep up with their peers. Typically, these kids stick with their lesson programs longer and improve at a much faster rate.

Our Students:

We have seasonal shows (Our last was on February 16th @ Victory Grille in Dedham,MA) three or four times a year. The kids really love playing at special events as well. Last year we played at Walpole Day (The town’s annual celebration) and Jarvis Fest (a new Fall event held at Jarvis Farm in Walpole). This year we will be sponsoring the stage at Walpole Day (May 13th) and our house band will be headlining the event. Our house band is also playing at the grand opening of the Norwood Space Station on April 29th & 30th — a new retail center for new businesses as well as it being an artists community with performance space, an event facility, etc.

While we have not had any of our students be a part of any of the SoR sponsored events, we are very proud that two of our former students have gone on to pursue their music careers at Berklee College of Music. We also have one of our current students who started with us two years ago in a week long summer camp, and didn’t know how to play an instrument. In a very short time she has performed as the lead singer of our Performance Group and house band, has learned to play guitar, performed at various open mic nights around the area as a solo/acoustic act and has recorded a CD of original music!

Rock Stars We’ve Mixed With:

Boston based band “Bad Rabbits” (Boston Music Award Winners) had their drummer Sheel Davé stop in to the facility recently. We have also hosted a concert with the band “Think” (Now called The Figures) that is comprised of Berklee College of Music grads.

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In collaboration with/produced by Jeff Gorra

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