Memo to Mayor James Kownacki and Township Councilman John Ryan: Don’t give up your day jobs.
The two aspiring rock stars jumped up on the stage at the School of Rock Princeton’s new home at 1761 Princeton Ave. in Lawrence Township to celebrate its grand opening on Sept. 18.
Kownacki grabbed the microphone and belted out “Lean on Me,” accompanied by the house band and its singer, as the crowd clapped and cheered.
“You go, mayor,” someone shouted from the audience as Kownacki walked off the stage.
Then Ryan leaped onstage, harmonica in hand. The house band started to play a blues-y tune, but Ryan held up his hand to stop them.
“Stop, stop, stop,” Ryan said. He reached up for his sunglasses, which were perched on top of his head, and lowered them down over his eyes. The band began to play again.
It was all done in the name of fun to help School of Rock Princeton’s owner, Michael Morpurgo, introduce its new location to the community. Part of an international franchise that has roots in Philadelphia, the school had been located on Quakerbridge Road in Hamilton Township.
The School of Rock Princeton was already outgrowing its Quakerbridge Road space when the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, said general manager Billie Seeland.
The pandemic and the restrictions imposed on businesses meant the School of Rock Princeton could not use some of its lesson rooms, because students and instructors could not maintain the mandatory six-foot social distancing rules, Seeland said.
So, it was time to look for a new home.
The School of Rock Princeton’s new home on Princeton Avenue, the former site of Knapp’s Cyclery, is much larger. It has allowed the School of Rock Princeton to create 10 lesson rooms, two rehearsal rooms and a venue room where a band can perform, Seeland said.
The School of Rock Princeton offers lessons on guitar, bass guitar, vocals, drums and piano, Seeland said. Students learn theory and techniques, based on songs by artists such as Aretha Franklin, Lenny Kravitz and Led Zeppelin.
Musicians as young as 6 years old – Rookies, in School of Rock parlance – can learn the fundamentals of chord, rhythm and song structure, according to its website. Children are introduced to instruments and can choose one to pursue in Rock 101, the next level.
All of the programs are available in-person and online.
Seeland said he wants the School of Rock Princeton to be a place to cultivate creativity and confidence through a community that encourages inclusiveness and acceptance that also provides a nurturing environment for students to grow as musicians and as individuals.
“Music is a way to bring together people with diverse backgrounds and beliefs,” Seeland said.