Last Saturday afternoon, the Rosendale Theatre rocked out to the sounds of Music Bash 2015, which could be described as analogous to defending your doctoral dissertation for kids who have completed the latest season of Julian Baker’s New Paltz Rock workshops. Five bands, with members ranging in age from 9 to 16 (not counting Baker himself occasionally sitting in on bass) performed this year: Rosy & the Rivets, the Yew Norkers, the Force, 4G2B and Ashes of the Phoenix. Acclaimed Kingston-based guitarist Joey Eppard stopped in to contribute a few licks as the bonus celebrity guest.
Baker, a British-born bassist, keyboard player, composer and award-winning music producer who also teaches classes in the History of Rock at Marist College, founded his school in 2010 after finding himself having a blast organizing and teaching a group of local third- and fourth-graders to form their own band, Kids Rock New Paltz. The young participants’ enthusiasm and growth inspired him to create a music summer camp, and then a spring and fall workshop series.
From mid-October through early December, the young aspiring rock stars showcased at the Rosendale Theatre met weekly to hone their chops, rehearse together, express themselves through their instruments and learn how to play different rock styles. A big part of the school’s message is that teamwork is every bit as important in music-making as it is in sports: At New Paltz Rock workshops, “students learn how to interact with others respectfully while having fun and reaping the rewards of making music. Everyone has an equal say in choosing songs, image and musical ideas. Each person understands their role in the band and learn how they each play an equally important part in creating a successful unit.”
Once that cohesion is achieved, the participants get to put it to the acid test of public feedback by performing at a variety of indoor and outdoor music events in the mid-Hudson, video recordings of which regularly end up on YouTube. Kids in the summer session, for example, appeared live at Gardiner Day and Plattekill Day in September. Kids come out of the program with enhanced poise and self-esteem following the experience of performing before a large and appreciative audience, in addition to more sophisticated musical skills and a stronger sense of what it takes to make a band hang together successfully.
For those enrolled in the fall semester of New Paltz Rock, the Music Bash on the Rosendale Theatre stage is the Big Enchilada. Expect to hear from these kids in the years to come, as they master their instruments and work their way up the apprenticeship ladder to “play out” in more and more local venues. And don’t be too surprised if someday some of them become true rock stars – then you can brag that you saw them play when they were just young unknowns.
New Paltz Rock recently relocated to 122 Main Street in New Paltz. For more information about New Paltz Rock, visit www.newpaltzrock.com.