At Seattle's famed Crocodile, young School of Rock students get their first taste of playing in a nightclub.
Famous Seattle bands have played The Crocodile’s small stage in Belltown — Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Mudhoney, the Melvins.
But on this day, on this stage, songs from the 1970s are played by students dreaming big from the School of Rock West Seattle. They’re developing their skills in the school’s studios and performances around town.
Olivia St. Germain, 8, is not much taller than her Fender Duo-Sonic electric guitar. She wears a silver sequined top and a glittery cat-ear headband, ready to shine on stage. She’s both nervous and excited.
“It was my first show,” she says. “But I really like playing and getting to play with everyone — all the pieces fitting together.”
The brand-new students, in Rock 101, open the show and rip into The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb,” kicking off the early Saturday afternoon set.
A few off-notes and missed beats are expected and don’t diminish the enthusiasm or appreciation of the audience, mainly family and friends.
More seasoned guitarist Kadin Oliva, 15, is just offstage waiting to join seven other musicians to play Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.” Only the beam spilling onstage from a spotlight outlines him.
In the two small green rooms, student musicians prepare, relax or return after performing, with some adding their names to walls just as scores of bands have done before.
Stefano Hanes and William Frederick contort and climb into an old doorless cabinet as if it’s school playground equipment.
Stefano, 9, is rocker-ready with his hair dyed red and pomaded up into a Mohawk.
He’s a drummer like his dad. Mom Jenn says “the school teaches them responsibility (that) your bandmates need you.”
She said he recently “got to see Alice in Chains at the Crocodile. Now, he was playing on the stage.”
“It’s fun to watch him grow. He’s torn between soccer and drumming, but he should do whatever makes him happy.”
School of Rock students play all around the city. And on this morning, singer Miranda Kitchpanich, 17, and her bandmates are performing outside at Seattle Center, volunteering at the midpoint of a 5K run. Despite the gig’s early hour, it’s a high-decibel, high-energy performance. “It’s better to lay it all out on the floor,” she says.
Kitchpanich is in a bright red outfit, hair flying as she dances to the lyrics. Next year she’s heading to college, and she’s hoping it’s Boston’s Berklee College of Music.
Back in West Seattle at the School of Rock’s studios, Olivia St. Germain is working on a song in front of a poster of Blondie’s Debbie Harry done in the style of Andy Warhol. Olivia is paying close attention to the notes, which is both rehearsal and lesson. Does she know who Debbie Harry is?
“Not really. (But) I hope to get my own band someday.”
In the same studio, drummer Eleanor John, 16, is thinking about the beat. The drums are “the metronome of the band.”
At home she has an electric drum kit with earphones. It’s not the same as a full drum set but it’s quiet and doesn’t take up much space. “You only hear the drumsticks on the pad.”
The advantage: “No angry neighbors.”