Classes may be out of session for most students living in the Upper Peninsula, but ABC 10’s Rick Tarsitano has the story on one school that never closes their doors.
The School of Rock isn’t your typical academic institution. Lessons plans featuring rhythm and tempo strike a chord with undergrads, and inspire them to perform at high levels. Their classrooms are filled with bright lights and cymbals that can only be fully understood with a stick. The school’s founder and lone professor, Ross Allured, tunes into their oral examinations from his desk, watching as his pupils stage their progress that’s been years in the making.
“It really just kind of evolved. They came to me as individual students when I started teaching privately. I always felt, when I was teaching, that the best way to develop a young musician is through performance. So, we started doing open mics here at the Falling Rock. Then it kind of evolved to getting the kids together and making little bands out of them. That really took off,” explained Ross, who comes from a strong pedigree of musicians and teachers.
“It’s just been amazing to see the transformation in the kids – from little tikes to college kids now, with wonderful stage presence and excellent musical abilities,” remarked Dave Kronk, a parent of one the students in the school.
Originally hailing from Louisiana, Ross taught his way up through Florida and Traverse City, eventually landing in Munising a few years back where he imparted his musical flavor on the kids in the community.
“He is the best bassist I’ve ever met,” noted Joseph Heinonen, a 12-year-old bassist in the band Flitch.
“I took piano lessons previously which really helped me with tempo. But Ross, he was just patient let’s say. It’s hard watching a younger person who’s not experienced as you try to really play,” added Karl Heinonen, a 15-year-old drummer and brother of Joseph in the band Flitch.
“My singing has improved so much. I can tell. Even though it’s not where it should be, it’s still really good. My drumming, he teaches me everything with it. I thought I could not sing at all, and I just never really liked to because it was really scary and nerve wrecking. But, I did and it’s a lot of fun singing. Even though you might not be the best singer, it’s just a lot of fun,” echoed Jillian Schramm, a 14-year-old singer/drummer in the band Beach Bodies.
His calm demeanor and soothing wisdom has helped his class grow not only as musicians, but people.
“He has become one of my best friends in a lot of ways,” said Cassie Krooks-Lupke, an 18-year-old singer/guitarist in the band Twinkleberry and the Anything Buts. “There have been a couple practices where I have done nothing but sit there and vent to him. But, he is an excellent teacher, and he really does know what he’s doing. He knows everything from classical to rock.”
Ross’ support takes on many forms – from lending his talents to any band in need to giving his students a taste of what it’s like to be paid musicians. But, for Professor Allured, it’s a dream come true.
“I mean I always knew it was the right thing for me to do. It was all I ever wanted to do. I can hardly think of anything more rewarding. There’s just nothing like it,” Allured grinned.