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Long Valley School of Rock Giving Kids a Stage

Local franchise teaching students about music and instruments with opportunities for advancement.

It's not every day you can walk through the center of Long Valley and hear pre-adolescent boys playing the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" on a bongo.

But it may happen more often than you'd expect.

That was just the preface to another Tuesday night rehearsal at the Long Valley chapter of the School of Rock. Co-Owner Vince Adessa stood outside waiting for another student to arrive before a full-blown jam session coul erupt near the back of the building.

"Sometimes there's just so many scheduling conflicts," Adessa said. "Some of these kids play sports and they've got schoolwork. The rules here are that family comes first, school comes second, and School of Rock comes third."

Established in Long Valley in October 2007, the school is includes students from ages 7 through 18.

"We've got kids here from Long Valley, Chester, Mendham and as far out as Sparta, Far Hills and Warren," Adessa said.

Ryan Kennedy, 15, comes in from Chester for vocal and guitar lessons in addition to the weekly three-hour rehearsal.

"It's been really fun," he said of playing with the group at the school. "I've been coming here since February, but played the guitar for about a year before that."

Kennedy picked up the vocal lessons after starting the guitar.

"I just wanted to sing," he said. Wielding his father's handed-down instrument, the young guitarist said his favorite band is Led Zeppelin. "My dad is really into music and he never really had anything like this, so he's excited about me coming here."

Coming off a three-show weekend at the Stanhope House, this group of performers was preparing to go over mistakes that were made. They were preparing for another three performances for the coming weekend at Stanhope.

The school offers lessons for absolute beginners–known as School of Rock 101–which usually take between three months and a year to graduate from.

"You can walk in here having never picked up an instrument," Adessa said. "It's awesome to see the evolution these kids go through."

Although the musical direction of the school tends not to go beyond the grunge period of the 1990s, some of the students' inspirations do.

"My favorite band is Sublime," said Steph Mondiello of Mendham. The 14-year old joined the school to learn and play the guitar. "I've been playing for about a year, and didn't know how before I came here," she said.

The '90s ska-punk band split up the same year Steph was born, but no matter.

"Yeah, Brad Nowell (Sublime's front man) is my favorite guitarist," she said.

The hallway in the school is adorned with posters from all 23 shows that have been performed by Long Valley School of Rock musicians over the past three years. Bands like Metallica and the Beatles have been replicated, as well as a full-blown '80s concert.

According to Adessa, the first show that must be performed by each School of Rock franchise is "The Wall" by Pink Floyd. "But we're about to do an Elton John vs. Billy Joel performance and we're beginning southern rock, too," he said.

The price per student is $295 a month, which covers weekly, 45-minute instrument lessons and three-hour rehearsals. The school currently has an enrollment of more than 90 students.

"It's a place where kids can go to learn about music and really enjoy it," Adessa said. "Some of these kids aren't going to be part of 'the clique' or the star of the basketball team. But they come here and fit right in."

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