Edison’s Rock and Roll Club: Learning by ear and Internet


The half dozen students in Edison’s Rock and Roll Club are generally a homogeneous, laid back group. Under the guidance of teacher Eric Fleming, they show up every week after school to work on songs. Most of them play guitar and few of them can read music. They work out songs by ear, or check out a free website to learn how to play them.

What else do they have in common? “They play Metallica, non-stop,” Fleming said. (And when this Baby Boomer reporter jokingly requested “Stairway to Heaven,” student Alicia Awijane’s lighting-speed rendition quickly silenced aforementioned reporter. Awijane, by the way, wore a Led Zeppelin tee-shirt.)

Fleming said the club has changed in its two years. Last year, when activities buses were available to take students home after school, there were more members. But the buses fell victim to budget cuts this year, and the membership fell from 13 to 6. Last year’s format was looser, added student Robert Northrop. “We were messing around. Each week we had a tab we’d all try. This year we’re coming up with our own original compositions.” (A “tab,” or tablature, is a way of reading notes for a guitar; it is simpler than musical notes.)

Their goal, Fleming added, is a public performance this year. “We’re taking it up a notch.”

Fleming, who is in his second year of teaching history at Edison, said he doesn’t have a music background, and taught himself to play guitar.

The club has keyboards available, but no one has stepped forward yet to play them yet, and nobody wants to sing, either. “Nobody’s too excited about the microphone,” he added.

Northrop, who is a senior, said he started playing guitar in middle school. “We do this as a pastime,” he said, adding that he plans to pursue music in college. “We all like the same kind of music. If there’s something we like, we see if anybody knows it. Otherwise we find it on the Internet. There are websites that teach you how to play. We print it out and make copies for everybody. The stuff we use is all user created [meaning, not copyrighted].”

This year, Edison offers choir, band and other music courses. Music teacher Stacy Kilton, who teaches guitar, helps out with the club. “She’s really good at getting everybody focused,” Fleming said.