AUSTIN (KXAN) — The blues and rock ‘n’ roll, two music genres — one smooth and soulful, the other intense and blazing — both born from Black culture.
A local School of Rock franchise is now incorporating that history into its curriculum.
“I started playing when I was little, and I never really wanted to stop,” said Gavin Carney, a School of Rock student.
Carney has picked up guitar and vocals, but drumming is his first love.
“It’s not really like anything else … I’m not sure how to describe it,” he said.
“Really, the focus here is to, you know, not only just teach kids music, but to teach them how to perform together in a room, and you know, have a musical conversation,” explained Alex Vallejo, director of operations for Rockin’ D Five, owners of the Round Rock and Southpark Meadows School of Rock franchises.
Like its name indicates, the school teaches rock ‘n’ roll. But Vallejo said they were missing a key piece of education. So, they sought Bevis M. Griffin and his company, Deux Voix Apex Solutions, to come up with a Black History Month curriculum.
Griffin is a pioneer of glam rock in Texas and made waves in Austin in the 70s.
“Austin was a real game changer for me, because it literally put me into a community of very high caliber musicians,” he said.
But he said to understand the roots of rock, you have to go back to the blues.
“Blues is essentially like the DNA of rock ‘n’ roll,” he said.
Griffin worked with a professor from George Mason University to put together a blues timeline and setlist for the School of Rock.
“I mean, we wouldn’t even be talking about rock ‘n’ roll at all without artists like Robert Johnson, Etta James,” Vallejo said.
Those are first-generation blues that Griffin said inspired later big blues names based in Austin, like Jimmie Vaughan.
“Austin has a unique distinction in the United States as a blues center, as a blues Mecca, because of Anton’s nightclub that opened up in 1975,” Griffin explained.
The laid back genre eventually sparked an entirely new one: fiery rock ‘n’ roll.
“It didn’t start with Elvis Presley and Pat Boone. They were actually covering Black artists’ songs; Rolling Stones were covering Black artist songs,” Vallejo said.
An essential foundation launched this Black History Month but will stay at this Austin School of Rock franchise, forever.
“I think it’s made me … better, just to learn different types of music,” Carney said.
School of Rock students showcased their blues curriculum in a showcase performance at Austin’s home of the blues, Antone’s, on Feb. 20.
Griffin and school leaders said they’re working on making their program more accessible to underserved communities, including offering scholarships for kids who can’t afford classes.
“To get in front of these instruments when I was like 7 or 8 or 9 years old … I would have chewed through a wall to get in here to play these drums, given the opportunity,” Bevis said. “Those families really need an opportunity to get a foothold into creativity, because it changes your life.”
Griffin also plans to expand his curriculum to schools of rock nationwide and eventually the general public.