School of Rock Albany has announced that former Assembly candidate, Jesse Calhoun, has been named as General Manager. The position brings Calhoun’s experience as an organizer and musician to a nationally famous program. Thanks to the 2002 Jack Black film, School of Rock has 11 chapters around New York State, expanding in recent years and opening an Albany chapter in 2013. Calhoun spoke to NYS Music about his new role and what he brings to the job, and why we need to save the arts.
Pete Mason: How did you first get started in music as a kid when you were growing up?
Jesse Calhoun: I had been involved with vocal music ever since I was a kid, had my first solo thanks to Miss Mescudi in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, (fun fact that’s actually Kid Cudi’s Mom.) But I really dove in my senior year of high school. I asked my mom for a guitar that Christmas, and then spent every waking hour that I wasn’t in school trying to learn riffs from my favorite bands. I learned the little riff from “Come Out and Play” by the Offspring and the riff from “Song 2” by Blur and was hooked forever after that.
PM: How did you start The Ameros?
JC: I started a band called “Cultural Relativity” in Ohio with my best friend since 5th grade, Charles Pope. We recorded a little 5 song demo CD called The Controlled Demo – which the same night we recorded it and put it up, I was contacted by a DJ from Leaf Pile Radio out of Columbus who loved our song “Name Your Price for Freedom” and wanted to put it into rotation. We were sharing that song all over the country to local activist groups. It was right about the time of the Patriot Act being passed and I was concerned with a swift erosion of liberty that was happening in our country. It wasn’t long before Sean Muniz, a local organizer (who would eventually become our bass player) asked us to come do a benefit concert here in Albany, NY. A few years down the road not only had my view on relativism changed but our moniker had changed as well.
PM: What can be done to increase access to music and arts education in schools today?
JC: Great question! To me Paul Green (the guy the School of Rock movie was based off of) in his creation of the School of Rock has found an amazing answer. In the current educational model, what’s the first thing to get cut? The arts. Always. Not only does the current educational model come from a scarcity mindset, meaning that there are very many talented music teachers out there in the world, decreed officially or not, not many of them can find work, they have to wait for the music teacher to retire or die and then fight for that job amongst hundreds of other applicants. The School of Rock Albany not only enables local, active musicians to teach some of the greatest skills that they have learned both on stage and on their instrument, but it provides an outlet for children who are interested in music that might not be getting it otherwise. Here locally we are happy to supplement great local music programs and provide opportunities for children to unleash their inner rock stars, building confidence, teamwork and more.
PM: Can you tell us about what’s behind the planning for a Blues show and David Bowie tribute this spring?
JC: We are early in the season right now, so we’ve cast a variety of students into each show. We aim to teach concepts in context of some of the famous songs that many of us have come to love. We try to choose songs for each student that challenge them or help them learn concepts and expand their musical vocabulary. Right now it’s cool to see the students starting to learn both about the blues form and the roots of Rock ‘n’Roll, and also to explore the multifaceted artistry of David Bowie.