School of Rock Kitchener-Waterloo (SORKW), a franchise with origins in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is not your typical place to learn an instrument. With a strong focus on performing and collaborative effort, SORKW aims to give people of all ages a student-oriented experience outside of a practice room.
“We really want to inspire students to rock in a whole different way by participating in a whole innovative approach to music,” said Cynthia Sundberg, co-owner and president of SORKW. “Our goal is to get them on stage performing so that they enjoy learning music—they learn it faster and they get really good at it quickly. The only way to do that is by putting them with other kids so that they can play and experience being in a band.”
Despite only being around since January of 2014, SORKW is working fast on their vision of getting their students performing. They have struck a deal with Paul Maxwell, a local music venue owner, of Maxwell’s Music House in Waterloo. With Maxwell’s attention turned towards building his new venue, SORKW has taken over Maxwell’s music students in exchange for use of his venue, Sundberg shared. He pointed out the similarities in their teaching styles and both parties agreed this would be a good fit for the students.
“There’s a lot of passion for music in this area and we already know that we have the blues festival, we have the [Kitchener-Waterloo] Symphony, and we have the [Wilfrid Laurier University] school of music. There’s been a real desire to have more music here. With Maxwell’s music house, he’s been doing a phenomenal job of bringing great talent in … I think Kitchener just really wants to rock,” said Sundburg.
The grand opening, which took place on March 22, featured a tour of the recently renovated performance space located in downtown Kitchener. The space held a recording studio, performance space and soundproof student studios. The performance itself was held at the Tannery, where Kitchener mayor Carl Zehr officially ‘opened’ the ceremonies by smashing an old guitar in honour of SORKW. There was also a performance by the students of School of Rock Markham who played classic rock songs such as “Live and Let Die” by The Wings.
“The thing is that we have an opportunity here to bring something that is cool and fresh and innovative to K-W. K-W is a really innovative community so we know that they’re going to support us and they’re going to spread the word,” enthused Sundburg. “My husband [Rick Endrulat] and I have been working at our other business, Virtual Causeway, for ten years and this opportunity came up … I thought this is a really great opportunity to influence people to become better leaders, contributors to our community, to have musical talent and bring a lot of joy to a lot of people. It was really just a natural thing. It’s [also] just really cool and fun to work in school of rock,” said Sundburg on her decision to spearhead SORKW.