Kevan Hester dates the origins of Cary’s School of Rock to his son’s budding interest in the guitar.
“By chance, my 7-year-old told me he wanted to learn guitar,” he said. “I wanted to learn guitar, so I thought this could be a good father-son bonding time.”
Hester searched online for guitar lessons and signed up at a local music store.
“We took lessons for a month, and my son was bored because they didn’t have the curriculum,” Hester said.
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He went on the hunt for a program that would hold his son’s interest. His search led to School of Rock, but the closest school was in Charlotte.
Hester, 41, spent 15 years teaching English in Seoul, South Korea, before moving his family to Apex early last year. He was evaluating his career options when he saw the potential in owning a School of Rock franchise. A trip to Milwaukee to attend Summerfest, the world’s largest outdoor music festival, sealed the deal.
School of Rock, the national organization, holds an annual battle of the bands at the festival.
“When those kids came on stage, they were as good or better than any professional band,” he said.
Hester’s Cary location is the only one in the Triangle and the second in North Carolina. The music program isn’t affiliated with the 2003 Jack Black movie of the same name.
School of Rock has four programs based on age and ability. Children as young as 3 or 4 are introduced to rock music and its basic components in a group setting. In the next levels, students rotate instruments until they find their passion. Choices include guitar, bass, vocals, keys and drums.
It is the performance program that is the star. Here, students learn to play in a band and work toward a live performance. Songs for concerts are chosen based on the skill level of each student.
“The performance program is what we’re all about,” Hester said. “All the steps lead up to it. We book stages, sell tickets. It’s a real concert.”
Concerts take place at outside venues rather than at the music studio.
“We treat the performance like a play,” Hester said. “Each song is a scene, and each song is cast according to the skills and maturity of the students. We match kids to songs and challenge them. No one else does that. That’s where the magic is.”
The ultimate goal is for students to begin and finish at School of Rock, he said.
“We want to be their musical guide on this journey,” he said.
“Old-school classic rock is the epitome of real talent. That genre was a period of time of amazingly talented musicians – Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Beatles. That’s what we’re here for. To carry the torch and keep it alive for today’s youth.”
Hester’s background as an educator is a perfect fit for his new venture, he said.
“It all comes back to the kids,” he said. “Your school is only as good as its teachers, and that’s what I’m good at: picking the talent and an ongoing relationship with the kids. I’m good with kids.”
Hester, who is not a musician, has plans to take advantage of the musical talent he will have at his disposal.
“I will learn to play guitar. And I want to play keyboards.”
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About School of Rock
Location: 1311 NW Maynard Road, Cary
Contact: 919-439-6086 or cary.schoolofrock.com
Hours: 3 p.m. - 9 p.m., Mondays through Thursday; 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Saturday