Bach to Rock: Local music students band together

May 28, 2024 | (Jason Fraley)

WASHINGTON — When Jack Black introduced Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” at the Golden Globes, many folks instantly thought of their collaboration on “School of Rock” (2003), in which Black turned a class of prep-school students into face-melting rockers.

But did you know something similar is unfolding every day in the D.C. area?

It’s called Bach to Rock, which opened its first corporate school in Bethesda, Maryland, in 2007. Rather than individual music lessons, the school treats music like a team sport, forming student bands that record music together in studio and perform at live public shows.

One such band is Out of Line, one of the many Bach to Rock bands coming together for Bachapalooza on Saturday at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Virginia.

Out of Line consists of five high-schoolers, all hailing from McLean.

Vocalist and keyboardist Claudia Swope, 16, attends The Potomac School. She grew up in a musical family and has been singing as long as she can remember. These days, her favorite artist is D’Angelo, and she hopes to go to the Berklee College of Music to hone her skills.

Lead guitarist Sam Roomian, 17, attends McLean High School and has been with the band for about three years. When he was a kid, his sister played violin, so he picked up the guitar around age seven. He says he was influenced by the shredding guitar playing of Eddie Van Halen.

Drummer Conor Zeya, 14, also attends McLean High School and has been with the band for nearly five years. Neither of his parents played instruments, but he began taking piano lessons at a young age before learning the drums. In his free time, he listens to a lot of Rage Against the Machine.

Finally, the bassist Liam O’Donovan, 17, attends The Dominion School. He first picked up the violin at age five, then learned piano, drums and bass. His iPod is often blaring the ska-punk band Streetlight Manifesto, and he’s one of the original members of Out of Line, which he founded at age 12.

This Fab Four of McLean musicians brought their instruments into WTOP and rocked the Glass Enclosed Nerve Center with the song “Breathe Easy,” written by Swope about a bad breakup:

May 28, 2024 | (Jason Fraley)

“I think they’ve got something really special and I hope they play together forever,” says Matt Cummings, music director for the McLean chapter of Bach to Rock.

Cummings says the school holds shows everywhere from The Hard Rock Cafe to The Fillmore to The 9:30 Club. It even offers a music class called “Rock ‘n Roll” for kids as young as nine months old.

Yes. Nine months old.

“There’s a lot to be learned about music at that age,” Cumming says. “It helps children develop the basic musical skills at an early age.”

Music advocates say those skills continue a child’s development as he or she gets older.

Psychology of Music magazine claims that 90 percent of Americans believe music lessons help kids make friends, develop creativity, enhance intellectual development and build teamwork skills.

Likewise, School Music Today claims that music students perform better in school, earning a national average GPA of 3.59 compared to 2.91 for non-music students.

Aside from the developmental benefits, it’s also a lot of fun, as you’ll see at Jammin’ Java on Saturday.

“You’re gonna hear everything from Prince to Kings of Leon,” Cummings says. “All the bands usually have a couple surprises up their sleeves for a big show like this. … Out of Line plays Prince’s ‘Computer Blue’ from ‘Purple Rain,’ and they worked pretty hard on that. It’s pretty incredible.”

Hear the full interview with the music director here:

May 28, 2024 | (Jason Fraley)

Click here for tickets.

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Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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