April 19 update: The School of Rock is back in session at Churchill Alternative, with big plans for an Open Air Concert on May 24 with 130 student performers. Stay tuned for details. Also, The Street of Rock will be performing at ArtsPark.
From his living room on Carruthers Avenue, David Hartell leads an organized chaos of ukuleles and bongo drums hammered out by a choir of about a dozen elementary school children from grades one to six.
The Street of Rock started after Churchill Alternative School’s School of Rock program didn’t start on schedule due to the recent labor dispute involving the Ontario public school teachers.
After seeing the disappointment in his young neighbours, Hartell – a father of three himself – decided to offer up his home as a make-shift jam space.
“I know Gabby (one of the young rockers) well, and I knew it bummed Gabby out that there wasn’t going to be a school of rock this year,” said Hartell. “So her mom and I started talking and decided, we could do our own school of rock.”
Gabby Mosurjohn-Lockey is a fourth grade student wielding a ukulele and sporting an over-sized plaid shirt. She loves Walk Off The Earth and David Bowie.
The kids have been playing together for the past seven weeks and sound surprisingly tight for a band with the collective age of Keith Richards. The group’s repertoire includes Walk Off The Earth, Taylor Swift, Serena Ryder and a raucous, stomping rendition of I Love Rock and Roll.
Hartell acts as a conductor, leading the group on guitar, his own singing drowned out by the collective of small but powerful lungs.
McKenzie Albert is in grade six, she says she has been humming tunes since she was three months old. “I just really like to sing, it’s my hobbie,” she said. “I’m gonna be a star.”
Patrick Piercan is the lone boy of the group and a young prodigy on the ukulele, “I’ve been playing a million different songs and I always want to learn more,” he said.
All of the kids sing, some bang drums and shake rattles, while a few of them plunk along on ukulele – a skill they were fortunate to learn in music class. They follow with ease as Hartell explains the chord changes to Walk Off The Earth’s Summer Vibe.
As the practice comes to an end, the kids tear through the house in a charged game of hide-and-seek. Hartell hangs up his guitar and sets about reorganizing his living room. “It’s kinda crazy, but it’s tons of fun,” he says.
Stay tuned for the Stirling/Carruthers Solstice Party on the evening of June 21, when The Street of Rock will be performing live at the annual park party.