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Innovative Educator: Boise Rock School keeps the music - and learning - going online

"At times like these, we really need art and music," said managing director Ryan Peck. Programs include free beginning guitar and songwriting classes.

BOISE, Idaho — Most schools are holding their classes online right now, but for the arts it can be a little more complicated.

One local school is making sure music students are staying engaged.

Boise Rock School has 400 students and 12 teachers. When classes were all moved online, everyone seemed to rise to the occasion after the initial shock.

"I mean, I think a lot of us are having a little bit of whiplash," said Ryan Peck, the managing director of Boise Rock School.

We talked with Peck over FaceTime about having to move in-person classes to online only.

"It's been a great thing, and obviously nothing can replace someone playing in front of you or being in a group where you're physically able to play together, but it's the next best thing for us," Peck said.

Teachers operate out of their homes and connect with students in theirs. Zoom is the preferred technology.

"When you use Zoom you can do breakout rooms so you can have a drummer that needs to work on a part and you can have him in a breakout room and practice that while you're still working with a couple other students on something else," Peck explained.

He says the school has found group classes are the best. There is positive peer pressure an a whole lot of fun.

"So having kids in bands and being able to achieve goals and do things they want to do in a really fun way, because that group base helps build more resilience and communication skills and it's just more empowerment," Peck said. "I mean, kids are driven to impress their peers, driven by peer respect, so it helps to have someone say 'hey man you need to learn that guitar part.' I think the kids are stoked to be doing something productive, and even though they're seeing their friends on the screen, they're still seeing their friends and at times like these we really need arts and music and it's a great story to the tonic if that makes sense."

It does, and Peck says he's thankful the Boise Rock School can offer online jam sessions.

"We're really lucky to be able to do what we're doing online, I mean, I realize some people can't, like massage therapist, they're just sort of shut down, but we did have a light at the end of the tunnel to run too and it's been cool," Peck said. "We've been learning a lot and having fun."

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Boise Rock School is also continuing to do outreach for the schools at St. Luke's Children's Hospital and the Ada County Juvenile Detention Center. 

There are some free drop-in classes in beginning guitar and songwriting. If you and your child are interested, go to the website and send an email.

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