Summertime, and the rocking is classic, for Wilton teens Addie and Ben Teolis.
Addie, 14, a vocalist and bassist, and Ben, 17, a guitarist and vocalist, are summer students at the School of Rock, a national chain of performance-oriented rock music schools with local branches including New Canaan and Ridgefield.
There, they study, practice and perform music that is far removed from today’s top 40 pop chart — literally, 50 years removed from it.
“We play music by Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix,” said Ben, who proved it by playing a perfect note-for-note copy of Big Brother and the Holding Company’s Piece of My Heart, while his sister Addie did emotive justice to the original Janis Joplin vocal part.
Why not play something from today?
“There’s no guitar,” said Ben, pointing out how he loves playing the instrument, and seeks out music that puts the guitar up front, the way rock did for five decades, before it began vanishing from pop radio in the first decade of the 21st Century.
“Today’s music is mostly electronic,” said the Ridgefield school’s manager, Adam Cirillo.
Bands like The Chainsmokers, one of today’s top hitmakers, for example, feature mostly synthesizer and barely have a guitar in the mix, much less an extended lead guitar solo.
And that is what Ben is all about. He played long stretches of single-note soloing in one of the rehearsal studios that showed how he’s been at it since he was, well, a kid.
He’s had music lessons before, but gets something extra at the School of Rock. Ben’s mom, Loren Teolis, is glad the family found out about it.
She pointed to her son playing chords at the piano and improvising a song.
“He has never taken a piano lesson. This is just something he picked up from being around it,” she said, proudly.
Students are welcome to bring their own instruments, and often do, but for those who don’t, the school has instruments on hand to let students use for their lessons.
“Not every parent wants to commit to the expense of an instrument until they are sure their child is playing,” Cirillo said. “I can understand that. So we have instruments here for them.”
What Ben and Addie get out of it, is a chance to play with others and perform together at local venues.
“It has given me more confidence on stage,” Addie said. “Even my teachers at school (Rippowam) have noticed the difference in me.”
It makes them think about continuing in music, even after high school.
“I’d like to major in music in college, at Berklee,” Ben said, fingering a Fender Squier Stratocaster.
“That’s if he can get in,” his mom said hopefully.
For more information on the School of Rock call 203-894-5698.