Three years ago my coworking space hosted free executive coaching sessions and my coach, Elizabeth Teagarden, asked me:
“If you could be anything in the world, what would it be?”
My answer? “Rock star.”
That answer led me on an unexpected adventure that freed me from routine.
I was born in New Orleans, the land of dancing, jazz, blues and partying. My first memory is half-naked gods throwing shiny beads, trinkets and candy from larger-than-life, brightly-colored vessels. It doesn’t get much better for a toddler. It was magic.
But nothing stays magical or else it would never be magic.
When I was around 3 years old my family landed in to Salem, Virginia, part of the Roanoke metropolitan area. It’s calm, beautiful and peaceful. A family town. A long way from New Orleans.
As I grew older I fell in love with rock n’ roll in all its forms. Rock n’ rollers became my idols with their raw sound, stage presence, lyrics and anti-establishment attitude. Rock n’ roll took me away from reality and it took me back to the magic of New Orleans.
I caught the entrepreneur bug in Charlotte just as the recession hit and faced a debt landslide.
I started and sustained multiple businesses. I became a busy entrepreneur with too much to do and too little time to do it and not enough money to do it. I wasn’t particularly passionate about anything other than working and working was becoming a big time bummer.
So when Teagarden asked, “If you could be anything in the world what would you be?”
I blurted out, “Rock star.”
She looked me straight in the eye with a deadpan look, and said, “You should go to the School of Rock.”
I thought she was poking fun. “School of Rock? Really? That’s a thing? I thought it was a movie,” I said.
As luck would have it, Teagarden is a School of Rock Charlotte graduate.
The School of Rock Charlotte teaches people to play rock n’ roll (mostly kids but adults too). You learn to play rock instruments — guitar, drums, keyboards, tambourine, harmonica and vocal chords.
The actual school is an old house in midtown Charlotte. It looks like a rock and roll orphanage — a hodgepodge of mismatched couches, a labyrinth of rooms with makeshift studios containing sound equipment, music stands and used instruments… lots of used instruments. String lights, rock posters and chalkboard lesson schedules adorn the blue-green walled lobby/den/foyer. The fridge has leftovers from the Guns N’ Roses era, the original GNR.
It’s rock and roll.
It’s a magical place.
I signed up for guitar lessons.
After four months of lessons and practice I signed up for the adult band class. Students practice weekly in a band of other wanna-be-rockers and play a show every three to six months.
I carried significant fear into the rehearsal space along with a borrowed electric guitar. Despite an internal critic on full blast, I kept strumming. It helped that my bandmates had never played live either.
We were a rag-tag band consisting of a sound technician, a retired professor, a franchise owner, a rotating drummer fill-in and me. Our instructor and band veteran, Martin Garlitos, patiently guided us through a set list. Gradually we became show ready.
I have played in two School of Rock Charlotte showcases with different band mates.
Playing live is exhilarating — soaking up the crowd, the stage, the lights, the sound… and the attention. Playing for a crowd is akin to being a New Orleans float god throwing notes, melodies and harmonies instead of beads. It’s magic.
The School of Rock Charlotte has taught me that the most rewarding things in life don’t make financial sense and often come with a side of paralyzing fear. It’s taught me that childhood magic can be recaptured. It can’t be bought or sold, only created by doing things outside of comfort zones.
Our next show is May 22 at Hattie’s Tap and Tavern in Plaza Midwood and like most bands we are currently looking for a drummer.
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Matt McGlothlin is a startup cofounder of RepRevive.com living on the edge and staying sane with rock n’ roll, yoga and minimalism.