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New School to Rock Fort Wayne

Members of School of Rock’s AllStars program performing at Summerfest 2015.

Photo credit: Myles Pettengill

Members of School of Rock’s AllStars program performing at Summerfest 2015.
Written by: Communicator StaffOctober 28, 2015

Written by Zachary D. Elick

After spending 13 years in his family’s automotive business, Mark McKibben wanted to get back to his Rock n’ Roll roots — and he will be doing it by helping kids, as well as adults, learn to rock.

“Music is one of my number one passions. The first 16 years of my life I wanted to be a rock star, that was kind of my career path. It was a ton of fun,” McKibben said.

McKibben will be the owner and general manager of the city’s first School of Rock franchise set to open Oct. 31.

Founded in Philadelphia during the late 90s, School of Rock provides “a variety of dynamic music instruction and artist development programs to engage students of all skill levels,” according to their corporate website.

The grand opening of Fort Wayne’s own School of Rock will kick off at about 10 a.m. with an honorary guitar smashing featuring Mayor Tom Henry. The rest of the festivities will run until 3 p.m. and will include live music provided by the house band from the franchise in Carmel, Ind., food trucks, “rock ‘n roll” hairstyling for kids and free trials.

McKibben said that his School of Rock franchise will keep students engaged by offering them  “real world experience” of the music industry, such as playing in actual venues. McKibben plans to contact local venues around town that will let them use their facilities.

“Obviously, they’re going to learn the music and they’re going to learn the theory, but they’re also going to get on a stage and put on a show,” McKibben said. “They’re going to learn, ‘Oh, jeez, what do I do when my amp doesn’t work?’ or ‘What do I do when my guitar becomes unplugged?’”

He also stressed their focus on group-based instruction. Their main program of instruction, the “performance program,” involves students immediately being placed in groups to rehearse with, along with being given one-on-one lessons with instructors. McKibben said the groups are important because “lessons just aren’t that fun.”

“I always equate it to sports. If a kid loves soccer, he doesn’t have a one-on-one soccer lesson with the coach and then go kick the ball around by himself, he gets to play on a team, play in a game,” McKibben said. “So it’s the same thing. They learn things like teamwork, camaraderie, responsibility … self-confidence.”

While the “performance program” will primarily be for students 12-18 years of age, they will also have a very similar program, “Rock 101,” that caters more to 8-11-year-olds, according to McKibben.

In addition, the program called “Rookies” will be for even younger kids. Though,  McKibben said “maturity and ability” will be considered when it comes to the placement of students in these programs, not just age.

The adult version of the “performance program,” however, will be limited to students who have graduated high school.

McKibben said he is currently trying to get in touch with IPFW to look for music students who are interested in being instructors.

Students at Fort Wayne’s School of Rock will also get an opportunity to audition for the house band, a separate band that McKibben hopes to book for actual gigs around town.

There is also School of Rock’s AllStars program that connects students from different franchises around the world and takes them on an actual tour, according to the School of Rock corporate website. On these tours the students perform at famous venues and festivals, such as the Red Rocks amphitheatre in Colorado and the Summerfest music festival in Milwaukee, Wis.