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For Those Who Want to Rock
What happens when two entrepreneurs with passion but no musical talent open a music school? They rock. At least that’s the case when Cindie and Chris Figgatt turned their business skills into feeding the dreams of their young sons, Nick and Tyler. When the music studio closed where the boys had been studying, the Figgatts knew they wanted their kids to continue on their musical paths. That decision led them to create Evolution Rock School in downtown Hagerstown. From private music lessons to songwriting support, the school has been helping emerging musicians find their way into the spotlight for the past four years, offering a hand up out of the classroom and onto the stage.
“We’ve had students from age 5 to age 61 come through these doors,” says Cindie. “We have watched some amazing talent grow here. We also see them grow into outgoing, confident people — and that’s where the business name came from, the evolution of our students and their music.”
So what do you do at rock school? You sign up in open enrollment, pay monthly tuition, and sometimes get scholarship help. You get private lessons and develop your vocals or practice on your bass, keyboard, drums, guitar, banjo, or even ukulele. Along the way, you find your own true voice and develop your style — whether it’s holding up the backbeat on the skins, or wailin’ original lyrics into a mic. There’s a crew behind you cheering all the way, led by instructors and backed up by other students.
You grow, expand and perform. At Evolution Rock School, your education gets real when you hit the stage as a member of one of the school’s performing bands.
“The best part of our program is that students get to be part of a band,” says Dusty Corbin, director of the school and one of five instructors. “We get them out of the classroom to do live performances at places like Cancun Cantina. That’s when they get the full experience. They get professional sound; the lights are on them. They get to hear the crowd cheering.”
That’s pretty heady stuff for wanna-be rock stars that may never have performed outside the basement, garage, or shower. Evolution students have also rocked audiences in New York at the Bellmore Family Street Festival in Long Island, which draws 100,000 visitors annually.
In the Classroom
After changing locations a few times, Evolution Rock School has settled into their custom-designed and soundproofed space in the Grand Piano Building at 20 W. Washington St. It includes two band rehearsal rooms and four lesson rooms, which accommodate private lessons as well as the option for weekly lessons with a band. The Figgatts’ vision includes the addition of a professional recording studio — an emerging dream for which space has already been allocated.
Professors of Rock
Dusty started with Evolution Rock School on day one. “Some of our students have been here since we opened,” he notes. “I’ve watched them walk in the door and not be able to play a single note. Then you hear them later and they’re playing Jimi Hendrix. Next thing you know, they’re playing a different instrument or are out front doing vocals. That’s when you say, ‘Wow!’ and it’s pretty amazing. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in a job.”
“Our main artery is our instructors,” says Chris when addressing the school’s success. “The first thing we did was put together a great staff. All of
our instructors have degrees and all are working musicians.” Instructors also use their networks to find performance opportunities and to promote students in the community.
“This school was needed here,” says Cindie. “We have created a positive environment; a safe place for kids to hang with people who have similar intentions.” Chris agrees. “Everyone here all wants the same thing: to be successful in their music.” By design, the school adheres to a strict moral code that has no room for students ragging on others or trying to embarrass them. There is also no profanity allowed — which sometimes means song lyrics need a little creative editing.
Dusty, too, has seen the value of the school’s environment. “Kids are here working on something that’s important to them instead of hanging out or playing video games. This program actually makes them behave better at home too,” he adds. “They love it here, and don’t want this opportunity taken away from them.”
The Student Body
Phil DiMercurio is one of the people who spends a lot of time at the school. A drummer since the age of two, Phil is one of Evolution’s original students who can now lay down the sticks and play guitar, bass, keyboard, banjo, ukulele, and mandolin. He has also been writing songs for a long time. “The more I know, the more fun I can have,” he quips. His band, Reaction, plays regional venues and has performed on the Baltimore Sound Stage at Inner Harbor. “Music is everywhere in my life,” he reflects. “Here, you get the chance to play with whoever you want in the school. I play with the best musicians I can find.”
When it comes to giving advice to other students, Phil offers this: “Never stop trying to reach your goals. If you left music just because you didn’t find the right band, how would you ever find the right band? And don’t let your age restrict you. I used to play with my dad’s band. ”
At 41, Brad Jones says with a grin, “You’re never too old to rock ‘n’ roll.” Brad is a non-traditional student who doesn’t see any issues with age. He is 20 years older than fellow band member Rich Strong, a long-time Evolution student who has been performing in rock bands since high school. Together with other students, they perform as Strongarm.
“Some of the kids here are really talented. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t intimidating,” Brad admits. He has a clear image of his first time being with Rich and the band. “We were doing Symphony of Destruction from Megadeth. I felt like I was singing in slow motion. After that, I was hungry for it. The adrenalin kicked in, and I was ready for a whole set.” Brad is learning to like the spotlight, and in two years, he would like to be the front man for a metal band performing music from his influences like Pantera.
As Cindie and Chris both note, the family-friendly tuition rates surprise people. “It costs more to be involved in a sport than to come here for class,” Chris states.
Progressing Instead of Graduating
For all of its tangibles, Evolution Rock School is as much about fueling desires and fulfilling dreams as it is giving students skills and talents they can take with them for a lifetime. Brad sums it up this way: “If you ever had a dream of playing in a band and getting in front of a crowd; if you’re willing to work hard and have a big heart for music; if you want to express yourself musically, then this is the place to be.”
Evolution Rock School
20 W. Washington St., Hagerstown