Though they come from all ages and musical styles, the students of Garage Band U all share one thing in common: a passion for performing.
Garage Band U is a school of rock that holds classes as part of the Hinsdale Conservatory of Music. Founded by James DiGirolamo, a professional guitarist and bassist, the school provides 8 to 12 weeks semesters for pre-teens, teens and adults who can also form ensembles with others to achieve hands-on learning.
“I just realized that my students were kind of missing something, that ensemble element,” DiGirolamo said. “I started the program so they could experience what it’s like to be in a band.”
Presenting their work at Sunday’s Summer Showcase, three children’s bands and one adult band performed covers of popular and classic songs, as well as their original music. Held at in Darien, the showcase brought a variety of talents to the stage, to the thrill of their families and friends in the audience.
By performing the gig, students can learn what it’s like to perform to a live audience and show off the skills they learned in the classroom. Thirteen-year-old Karina Vasquez, the lead vocalist of the band Checked Out, said she hopes to become a singer in the future, and Garage Band U puts her on the right track.
“I figured it was a great experience and I can try different views of music,” she said. “I love the fact that I can express myself in many ways.”
Vasquez performed pop rock music before an adult band took the stage and played country and classic hits. DiGirolamo said the program has slowly built interest with students of all ages. Many adults who look to stay involved in music sign up.
“I didn’t think at my age, I could get a chance to play with other people anymore, but I got an opportunity, so I’m happy,” said Bob Coppoth, a 57-year-old drummer for the band, I Got Nothing.
Angie Coker, an audience member there to support her son, Will, a bassist, said this year’s summer showcase had a good mix of bands and performers. She encouraged more people to attend the program’s gigs.
“I think that people should come out to watch the kids because they would be really impressed to see them,” she said. “It was a good mix of kids, it was a good mix of bands. It seems like a pretty fun group, and James is a great teacher.”
Most importantly, the showcase allowed students to have some fun after a semester of honing their skills at weekly classes. After their sets, the students, along with DiGirolamo, took the stage and belted out classic tunes, including “Mustang Sally” and “Twist and Shout.” For DiGirolamo, seeing this final showcase is a highlight of the program.
“Watching the kids pull it together to play is a lot of fun,” he said. “They’re a lot of fun to teach.”