Student musicians jam out in new rock band class


Photo Courtesy: Julia Hickey

Every Friday, the bands of rock band class perform their weekly song for one another.

Rock-loving students have long felt underrepresented in the fine arts department. Last year, their voices were finally heard when District 99 approved a new rock band class to teach the history of rock music. Throughout the year students learn about how rock music has changed over the decades and learn to perform some famous numbers as a band.

The year-long course is taught in units, each of which is centered on its own decade. Students learn about the genres as they emerged over time. Dajuan Brooks is the fine arts teacher who runs the new rock class, and he explained the way in which each unit is organized.

“It’s like ‘Hey, here’s a song,’ and I make them do the history behind it. If they’re playing Beatles, they have to research the Beatles, know a couple famous songs by them [as well as] why they are important to our culture. Then they sing the song. It’s all about performance,” Brooks said.

The class provides an opportunity for a specific group of students to explore its interests and express its talents. Senior Eviana Rojas is currently taking the class, and she spoke on how the class has helped her grow as a musician and as a person.

“[B]eing in that class really opened my confidence and my horizons up. … I became a better performer and more self-confident. Going through every decade, I grew more and more comfortable with myself. I essentially just became a better performer and started believing in myself more,” Rojas said.

With the way in which the class is run, students are assigned into groups and then work on perfecting a song from the unit which they are studying. Senior Julia Hickey said that this encourages the students to work with one another in a band setting and help each other improve.

“I learned really good problem-solving skills. There are some difficult songs, and say if there’s someone in your group or your band that’s having a difficult time learning a song or playing the song — [it’s] just learning how to solve that issue, help them with that …  . How to overall become a better musician [and] play with different kinds of people,” Hickey said.

The students in rock band class are all dedicated to their work in the genre. Senior Nathan Steed described the course as an overall intense musical experience.

“It’s intense learning. It’s intense practice. The songs are not your simple, four-chord blues or pop. Especially as a bass player, with some of the songs, I get more complex parts. … When you get into the ‘70s, everything gets a little more complex because you get so many more styles that start to emerge,” Steed said.

Brooks also believes that there is a deeper aspect of performing a song than many people may realize. He said it is an experience that requires the singer to better appreciate his or her inner self.

“[T]he biggest thing is also to have confidence and to love yourself. When you’re a singer, or you’re in a band, and you play some type of musical instrument, it’s literally the most vulnerable portion of yourself other than telling your personal story. For someone to sing and use their voice in that way, it’s a really courageous act, so you have to learn how to love yourself and love what you can bring to the room before you can even perform,” Brooks said.