After a few quick licks, they settle into an amazingly credible cover of "Time" from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon with Johnson on vocals and sound effects. Then they tear into a kick-ass surf-punk pastiche instrumental with a relentless groove from the rhythm section plus searing solos from the guitars. This isn't just zombie-making music. These kids have great technique, and they rock!
Ninety percent of the center's students are male, Johnson tells me, "the vast majority teenage boys and younger." For most, the irresistible lure is the chance to wield an electric guitar. "It's just so cool, like a sword or a laser gun or a hot rod all rolled into one," says Johnson. "And of course girls think you're cool if you play one."
But it's not just guitar--they also teach "bass, drums, piano, voice, ukulele--which is a great instrument for four-year-olds to start on!--flute, clarinet, and now violin, viola, cello, and double bass," Johnson says. "We also have rock bands, blues bands, jazz bands, and rock band camp in the summer."
The bands may be Johnson's greatest inspiration. "It dawned on me that I can teach the great rock songs and the great rock solos, but if my student doesn't have an outlet for his skills, he may not stick with it. I was in lessons with a kid named Nick, and I said to him, 'If I offered rock band classes, would you...' and before I could even finish the sentence, he said, 'Yes, sign me up.' From then forward, when someone inquires about lessons, I explain about the rock band school, and they love it.