In a venue on the outskirts of Wexford town, the steady strum of guitar and low bass tones waft out from underneath a doorway
It’s not long before some drums join in on the action, followed by a melodic female voice belting out the lyrics of Teenage Kicks by The Undertones.
One would be forgiven for thinking that this music is coming from an established band, who have over 20 years of gigs and musical experience to their names. However, on entering the small school hall in Scoil Mhuire in Coolcotts, it becomes clear that many of these performers haven’t even spent 20 years in existence.
Such impressive performances are standard for students at the School of Rock summer camp, who have spent long days preparing for their end of week concert. Now, only hours before their final show, the young musicians and singers feel ready to rock the stage in front of over 60 people.
‘I’m really excited,’ said Aoife Doheny, a young singer from New Ross. ‘Some members of my family are going to come to see us play.’
Aoife will perform on stage with other members of her band, who despite having only met each other a little over a week ago, have already formed a special bond.
‘This is a great place to make new friends,’ said Aoife.
Encouraging this interaction between young people is one of the key reasons for the formation of the School of Rock, according to co-founder of the project, Peter McCamley.
‘Kids from all areas of Wexford came here a week ago and they didn’t know each other,’ explained Peter, a freelance music teacher originally from the U.K. ‘Now they are in bands creating music together.’
The camp also helps young people to learn a skill and build confidence, which Peter feels is an important part of growing up.
Peter came up with the idea for the weeklong rock music summer camp while working as a music teacher in Scoil Mhuire. Inspired by a band of past-pupils, which he helps to run with fellow music teacher Louise Malone, the pair decided to create an outlet for children interested in rock music.
‘It’s a great opportunity for children who aren’t into sports,’ said Louise, who is originally from Birmingham. ‘Life can be lonely for a teenager who is into guitar. The camp allows them to meet other musicians and make friends.’
After they secured Scoil Mhuire as the premises for the summer camp, Peter and Louise began to spread the word. The pair were delighted when their posters received a massive response, with over 20 students signing up for the first camp. They were even more pleased when they heard the young musicians perform for the first time.
‘There is a massive amount of musical talent in Wexford,’ said Peter.
The children and teenagers, who are aged between nine and 15, were formed into three bands over the course of the week: Subway, Detour and the very imaginatively-named, Infected Suspension.
‘I suggested a few words on our board,’ said Al Power from Enniscorthy, who plays both base guitar and drums for the band. ‘Others made suggestions too and then we put them together and came up with the name, Infected Suspension.’
According to Al, the camp has allowed him to learn and meet new people. One of these is Oisin Tiernan, a talented piano player from Kilmore.
‘I saw a poster for the School of Rock one day and decided to give it a go,’ he said. ‘It’s been great. I’ve met some really awesome people.’
Prior to setting up the School of Rock, Peter was struck by the lack of facilities for young people with an interest in rock music.
‘I have taught classical music to young people but they just aren’t as interested,’ said Louise. ‘With the School of Rock, they are more enthusiastic.’
Each band spent the week with Peter and Louise, who taught them a selection of songs from bands such as Greenday. The students also made their own song request, which proved to be a surprising one for Peter and Louise.
‘They wanted to perform Zombie by The Cranberries,’ said Louise. ‘I didn’t think they would want to do any older songs at all.’
Although the School of Rock have only just completed their first week of camp, the project is already proving to be a big hit amongst the young musicians, who have given Peter some ‘overwhelming feedback’. Owing to this early success, Peter and Louise have decided to run some more camps in the near future.
‘We hope to run more at Halloween and Christmas,’ explained Peter. ‘We are also talking about doing a camp that teaches participants how to write their own song.’
However, it seems that the music isn’t going to stop just yet as these young rock stars refuse to wait until October to meet again.
‘Detour are going to keep on playing,’ said Millie Murphy from Barntown. ‘We are recruiting new members.’
Millie’s new friends and fellow musicians agree, with some having ulterior motives for keeping the music going.
‘I do it to annoy my parents,’ joked Oisin.
Whether these young musicians attend the camp to form new friendships, to have fun or to make their name on the stage, there’s clearly no way you can stop the School of Rock.
(First published in the Wexford People: print edition. Available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/teaching-a-different-tune-31493623.html)