Thanks to a big star, there are some new rock-and-rollers in Las Vegas. The Avril Lavigne Rockstar Club at Easter Seals is for clients ages 10 to 18. All of the children have special needs.
The monthly program began in March. Each session features music from a different rock band, such as The Beatles, AC/DC, The Killers and Kiss, and performers such as Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson.
About 12 youngsters attend each session. The program was made possible by a $10,000 grant from The Avril Lavigne Foundation to fund the club for one year.
Pamela Lang, vice president of development for Easter Seals Nevada, said the 10-to-18 age group was a population in need of more programming.
“It’s a chance to provide a fun opportunity and really make these kids’ dreams come true,” she said. “It allows them to spread their wings and be creative. It gets them out of their comfort zone.”
The hands-on music program takes place at School of Rock, 9340 W. Flamingo Road, a 4,000-square-foot facility. This day, the Rockstar Club included Joey Femenella, 12; Joseph Fogg, 12; Jamie Butler, 15; Aaron Limbaugh, 13; Molly Limbaugh, 9; Laney Brimhall, 13; Joseph Giannotta, 14; Selena Sydnor, 9; and Michael Sydnor, 10.
Sara Limbaugh’s son, Aaron, was there for his second time.
“He’s always been interested in guitar. It started when he was 3,” she said. “He’s always been addicted to The Wiggles. We bought him a keyboard, and he started teaching himself by humming the notes when he was about 5. He’s always just loved music.”
Aaron said his favorite part of being at Rockstar Club was the singing.
“That’ll change next hour,” Sara said.
When Selena arrived, she rushed up to Lang and gave her a big hug.
“Me and her are best friends,” she said.
Although The Who was slated to be featured this day, Queen’s “We Will Rock You” blasted from the speakers. The children began singing along with Freddie Mercury.
Instructor Doug Bond handed each child a pair of drumsticks. On their knees, they alternated tapping the sticks together, then rapping them on the floor. The pattern was three beats, pause, three beats, pause.
Different combinations were tried in a kind of Simon Says fashion. In the end, speed proved to be king, and the rhythms got faster and faster until the room was filled with a cacophony of drumming and laughter.
Aaron appeared eager to get to pounding on drums and gravitated that direction until he was redirected.
Joey, who doesn’t speak, stayed in the back of the room. He was not participating, but he was wearing a huge smile and running his fingers over a silent electric keyboard.
A hit song from The Who came out of the speakers, and the children rapped the sticks in time. Bond congratulated them on knowing the song and its distinctive beginning.
“Good, you caught the fill,” he said. “I know you guys are just dying to get to those drums, huh?”
The children hurried to claim their drums, some doubling up. Aaron claimed a full set and donned earphones to hear the music directly.
As “Teenage Wasteland” filled the room, the children mumbled the lyrics: “Out here in the fields/I fight for my meals ...”
“Here comes the drum roll,” Bond warned them.
“Is that an innuendo?” Aaron asked over the music.
Percussion and drums dominated Rockstar training this day. Bond handed out percussion shakers, sand-filled eggs, one for each hand. The drum sticks were forgotten, and the volume level immediately diminished. The children were given new patterns to try — right, right, right, left, left.
“Which is cooler, eggs or sticks?” Bond called out and received mixed reviews. “I know, how about we do one of each?”
One of the girls picked up a bass guitar and discovered she had the beginnings of a song.
“That’s got Gene Simmons written all over it,” Bond said, referring to a member of the band Kiss.
He next led them in a kind of red light, green light drumming exercise as a couple of kids took turns on the guitar.
The children spent a full hour being rockstars.
Lang said Easter Seals will reapply for the grant after a year, if it is available again.
School of Rock has been open about two years. General manager Cammy Davis said she partnered before with Easter Seals for its Walk With Me fundraiser events. She watched as the excited children left with their parents and guardians.
“It’s worth it to give to the kids and give back to the community,” Davis said. “Hands down, totally worth it.”
Classes are scheduled from 4 to 5 p.m. the last Friday of the month. The July 26 class is set to feature music from The Rolling Stones. There is no cost for attendees. Adult supervision is required, and there is a lounge where parents can observe the class.
To register, contact Joleen Arnold at 702-677-3585.
Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2949.