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Academy Anniversary

March 26, 2014, 9:55 PM by Perry Groten

Academy Anniversary

Some future rock and rollers took the stage Wednesday night to celebrate a musical milestone in Sioux Falls. They performed in a concert to show off the musical talents they've developed during the past year at the Brennan Rock & Roll Academy.   

The academy, founded by Dollar Loan Center CEO Chuck Brennan, opened one year ago, beginning its musical mission to provide free lessons to kids in need.

Nine-year-old Noah Sorgdrager is brimming with hard rock attitude. Now he's fine-tuning the artistry of rock and roll.  Noah's favorite song is Sweet Home Alabama.

"It took a couple of days and then I got it down," Noah said.

Noah's musical skills are still a work in progress. But he already has a rock and roll stage name picked out for himself.

"Alice Cooper," Noah said.

Perry: That name's already taken, though.
Noah: Hmmm...

As Noah ponders a new name, 11-year-old Alexis Huber strums in the studio.

"When I was younger, I've always liked the guitar," Alexis said.

It's been 12 months since the Brennan Rock & Roll Academy opened in Sioux Falls to much fanfare and heavy metal star power. But the true stars at the academy are the students and their teachers.

"I think it's pretty cool in that, it has a whole bunch of kids and a lot of instructors that are teaching them," Alexis said.

"When they figure out a chord or can play along to one of their favorite songs, that's really cool because you know that's a big confidence builder.  That's something they're going to take home and talk to other people about and it's going to make them excited to come back," volunteer instructor Toby Kane said.

Volunteers provide one-on-one instruction to kids from the Boys & Girls Club of the Sioux Empire. The weekly sessions last a half-hour. The academy furnishes the instruments.  The kids supply the musical motivation. 

"One of the unique things about here is that the students are really involved in their lessons. They have the opportunity to decide what kinds of music they want to learn, what kinds of songs they want to practice," volunteer instructor Manda Kokales said.

"It's all these little motor skills and little hands are working and it's tough and it's hard and then they're like wait a second, I'm playing along with this song I love," Kane said.

When you were a kid, you probably remember your music teacher harping on practice, practice, practice. These young musicians here at the Brennan Academy have that down cold.

"I practice at home, downstairs in my basement," Noah said.

"I do practice almost every day because I have a guitar at home, too," Alexis said.

Kids who otherwise couldn't afford lessons learn music in surroundings that are the envy of the industry.

"I think my age group, as a kid, you had two choices: you took up clarinet or trumpet. That's what you did. And if I had had the opportunity to play a keyboard, a guitar, get rock vocal lessons as a little kid, I would have jumped at it," Kane said.

Now the Brennan Academy begins its second year of fulfilling the rock and roll ambitions of young musicians.

"You're going to learn new things every day at the rock & roll academy," Noah said.

If kids can't practice at home, they can play instruments kept at the Boys and Girls Club. 

The Brennan Academy needs many more instructors, especially those with backgrounds in vocals and bass guitar.  For information on volunteering, click here.

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