Remember the days when your parents dragged you to boring music lessons? Nowadays it is the kids who are dragging the parents – all the way to Blueridge Rock School where music lessons rock.

“Why can’t music lessons be fun?” asks Andrew Petersen, the 32-year-old owner of Blueridge Rock School. “We want kids to learn instruments and play the style of music that they want to play.” Since opening last September, the school has enrolled close to 30 students who have learned to play rock music and other modern tunes on the guitar, drums, bass and other instruments.

Petersen, a musician himself when he is not working as a contractor or remodeler, thought of the idea when he was teaching a parent who complained that their son wasn’t learning the type of music he wanted to. “The kid wanted to play Zeppelin on the cello,” Petersen recalls. “So I thought, ‘Yeah, why not? We can teach him that.’”
With contacts from the local band community and help from Andrew Wilson, another musician and recent graduate from Virginia Tech in music engineering, Petersen started a new model for music lessons.

“Kids start at a level called ‘Roadies’ and then after a proficiency exam, they can move to the second level called ‘Sound Check’,” he explains. “The last level is called ‘On Tour Program’ where students learn an entire set list from an artist of their choice. After 10 weeks, we hope to set up a gig or two around town – kind of like a live recital.”

Students who sign up have a choice to pay $119 monthly for a weekly half hour session, and they can add on an hour jam session on the weekends with other students for $75 more a month. “The jam sessions are really popular,” says Petersen, “it is like practicing with a band.”

Blueridge Rock School’s most popular program is the 10-week lesson package for $435 which includes weekly half-hour lessons and jam sessions on weekends. “We have students from 6 to 60, and we try to group similar ages at the jam sessions so that the group feels like a band.”

The school provides the instruments for the students and has several acoustic and electric guitars along with percussion, a drum set, bass, mandolin and others to choose from. “The kids who come in here have never picked up an instrument, so we let them come in and mess around a little.”

Petersen says that Wilson teaches most of the classes and also teaches voice. “In a few months, we will have a Kickstarter campaign to fund a mobile recording studio to teach students to mix and record sound. We also hope to use the funds for stage equipment for live concerts.”

Blueridge Rock School currently hosts “Listening Room Concerts” where local and national recording artists play for students and the public in an intimate setting. “It is good for the students and other musicians to hear professionals,” Petersen explains. “We usually charge $5 to the public, but our students can come for free, and the money usually goes to charity. In the past, we have hosted one to raise money for the humane society and another for United Way.”

Blueridge Rock School is moving to 130 Jackson Street in Blacksburg this summer. Next summer, they plan to offer a weekly music camp for 8- to 18-year olds, Monday through Friday, four hours a day.

By Krisha Chachra