The School of Rock West Cobb house band represented Kennesaw and Cobb County internationally last summer at the world-famous Rock in Rio festival in Europe.
School of Rock (SOR) is a performance-based music education program for people of all ages, and young musicians, usually ages 11-18, in the regular performance program can audition for the house band. The goal is to expose students to life as a musician — band rehearsals, stage setup, equipment management and promoting themselves.
The SOR West Cobb band, made up of 12 musicians ages 12-17, performs at local festivals, including Big Shanty, Pigs & Peaches and Smoke on the Lake, every year and also tours with other SOR house bands. Along with other students from the school, the band also has played at iconic Georgia venues like Center Stage Theater, The Tabernacle and the beloved Strand Theatre on the Marietta Square.
But in June, a different and unique experience awaited the young group, as members packed their bags and headed to Europe for the trip of a lifetime. The band was among the 32 house bands — out of SOR’s 350 international locations — to be chosen by Live Nation and event organizers to perform at Rock in Rio Lisboa in Portugal. Since 1984, headliners at the festival have included Queen, AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses and Ozzy Osbourne, among others.
The kids from West Cobb performed first in Spain, at a local venue in Madrid, then headed for a performance at Time Out Market in Lisbon, Portugal, before taking the stage at the big festival on their last day. They played for hundreds of people each time.
“It was an amazing experience,” said SOR West Cobb owner Gabriel Rudge, who started the school in February 2020. “Our house band is very young, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We had a blast.”
Though the band has been together for a little over a year, Rudge said the members have an incredible team dynamic and work ethic.
“To be part of the house band is not only about having great proficiency at your instrument,” he said. “A house band member has to be the role model for the other students at the school but also when representing our community. The expectations are high for commitment, dedication, attitude and discipline.”
The school emphasizes playing a variety of genres in its programs, which helps students get exposed to other styles of music, like soul and funk, and allows them to learn and appreciate songs beyond the rock and pop-rock arena. The house band’s set list for festivals mirrors that.
“We create shows that reflect diversity and cultural perspective,” Rudge said. “We don’t teach music to put on shows; we put on shows to teach music. That is what School of Rock is all about.”
The Rock in Rio trip allowed the house band musicians to gain an even greater appreciation for music and culture, as many of the students had never left the United States before, Rudge said.
“Music is truly the universal language, but it always represents the local culture,” he said. “We’re proud to have represented Georgia, Cobb County and the United States, while also taking back some of Portugal and Spain in our hearts.”