New "Skool" in Fort Oglethorpe attracts aspiring rock stars - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

"Rock Skool" in Fort Oglethorpe attracts aspiring rock stars

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Mark Ferguson leads his Rock Skool students Mark Ferguson leads his Rock Skool students
Thaddeus Smith Thaddeus Smith

In a quiet corner on the back streets of Fort Oglethorpe, a rock and roll revolution is taking place.

From the classic posters and photos, to the rafter-rattling sounds from a tiny classroom/studio, kids aged 7 to 17 supplement their weekday education with the Rock Skool. They're learning to sing and play with the fearless abandon of their heavy metal heroes.

Teacher Mark Ferguson, describing himself as a lifelong rock fan and musician, says, "We learn a few notes, then some chords, followed by lessons in how to play with others.  The ultimate reward is to get to play in a live show."

Ferguson has played in rock bands since he was 14.  A few years ago, he saw the 2003 Jack Black movie "The School of Rock, " depicting a substitute teacher who hijacked a traditional music class, turning the students into a shredding band of rockers.

The movie struck a chord with Mark.  He says he figured he could do the same thing on a local level.  "Absolutely, I love it," he said.  "I live for this.  Turning kids on to music, it's my calling."

From the Beatles, to Van Halen, to Pat Benatar to the heaviest of metal bands, the Rock Skool band rehearsals sound like a montage of classic rock favorites.

Every student has a story.  16-year-old Alec Coffman, a student at East Hamilton High, is a much-awarded pianist, having performed solo classical piano for ten years.  He heard about Ferguson's class and figured he could branch out into another style of musicianship.

"It's been a real education, because the rock songs use so many chords and melodies that derive from classical music.  Having that background has made learning these songs easier and so much fun," Coffman said. 

Others find it a way to overcome shyness, to make over their self-image, or to make new friends. Chattanooga Valley Elementary student Kaylyn Baker says she can't wait to perform on stage, and hopes her classmates see her play.  "I have made so many new friends here.  They're funny, they're nice, and they encourage me.  If I make a mistake, they don't get mad, they show me how to do better and just tell me to keep trying."

Behind the microphone, 13-year-old Thaddeus Smith, a student at Chattanooga Valley Middle School, says he turns into a different person.  He credits Ferguson, a teacher who he says, is never boring. "He's the best, I really look forward to coming here, he's just an awesome guy," Smith said.

The Rock Skool bands have done a few public performances, with more on the way, including an April 26 date at the Kidz Expo at the Chattanooga Convention and Trade Center.   For more information, call 423-240-6827 or follow them on Facebook at Rock Skool Music Instruction.

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