PALMER — Palmer High School offers a class for potential rock stars.
The rock band class is intended to equip selected students for a music career and help prepare them for more than the music side of having an organized band.
At the beginning of the school year, students choose the style of music they play. They begin a functioning band that allows them to make a transition from having only a garage band sound to being able to perform in music clubs and on stage. The students also learn about business management.
Rock band class members, who had to audition for the class, also have to be in either marching band or choir. They receive fine arts credit for the class.
In talking with the students, it is apparent they have high standards for their music class and take the band seriously.
Drummer Adam Caussey, 16, started playing drums at 9 years-old using his brother’s drum set. He also plays guitar and is in choir.
“My family is really big into music,” Caussey said. “I just watch somebody who’s good at playing and how they’re playing and do what they do. I tried out because even though it’s class, it’s playing music and that is what I like to do.”
Justina Miller, 16, picked up playing bass guitar this year when she heard the rock band needed a bass player. Miller said she also plays trumpet and drums in the school’s band. In her sophomore year, Miller is also in vocal ensemble choir and was in the marching band. She is hoping for a career in music and plans to attend Navarro College.
Senior Josh Smith, 18, plays lead guitar for the band. He said he was a back-up guitar player before getting the lead role. Smith, who is also in choir, said he would sing when he was at home and he happened into the chance to take up the front position with the rock band class when a band member left.
Stephanie Hickey, 16, and Seferino Piña, 15, both sophomores, serve as the band road technicians or “roadies.” The two handle wiring, moving and placing equipment and keep the sound levels correct.
Even though Piña can play guitar and is in choir, he said he enjoys being a roadie and handling the technical side of the rock band. He added moving the equipment is no problem for him since he is also a power lifter.
Hickey is in vocal ensemble along with the rock band class. She considers the class a bonus since she plans to major in music at the University of Louisiana and the experience will help her with a career in music.
The students’ teacher, Mark Gorman, created the class this year and acts as a manager, teaching the essentials of all sides of the rock band business. With 40 years as a professional musician and 20 years experience teaching, Gorman wanted students to have a more practical education to pursue musical careers.
Gorman said he pitched his rock band class idea as a more up-to-date form of learning music and a way of offering students a more profitable method of making a musical career.
“In music we teach a 1950s Germanic choral and operatic style singing – it’s a real heavy dark sound,” Gorman said. “In band it is the big brass band and you can’t afford to travel around with a 50 piece band.”
Gorman likened teaching those music styles to teaching the alchemy of music because the music method is so out-of-date. He said in this age most people want to be musicians to be lead singers or guitar players.
“To really be educating these kids in a viable way we have to educate them in the culture in which they’re going to be a part,” Gorman said. “I am trying to teach them the things that I wish somebody would have taught me — things I had to learn the hard way.”
Students learn about sound systems, lighting, recording, booking gigs, interviewing, teamwork and playing the music. After passing the class, Gorman said the students would be able to get a job playing and making records.
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