School of Rock: The Musical, based on the 2003 Jack Black movie, premiered December 6 in New York City, featuring a pint-sized cast that, as composer Andrew Lloyd Webber’s recorded voice confirms prior to the show, all play their instruments live for every performance. It’s a tour de force for the middle-schoolers on stage, and a thrill for the kids in the audience. Here’s our review, as well as where your little rockers can get schooled in NYC.

photo: via School of Rock Facebook page

So, how kid-friendly is it — particularly for the elementary school set? Well, parents should know that the show follows the screenplay of the PG-13 rated movie very closely, including the sporadic use of profanity. It’s also quite loud, with bursts of bright, near-blinding light, and a running time of two hours and twenty-five minutes, with a fifteen-minute intermission.

That said, if your child’s attention span is up for it, School of Rock: The Musical makes a great first Broadway experience, or a fun, Winter Break treat for the more experienced theater-goer. Though the main character aspiring rocker/faux-substitute teacher Dewey Finn is ostensibly the hero of the piece, its sympathies are clearly with the children. The junior players are first introduced as uniformed zombies marching through the halls of their elite prep-school (where everyone gets into Harvard, or “at least Cornell”), burdened by the pressure of parental expectations. (The movie’s $15,000 tuition has been adjusted for inflation to $50,000 for the 2015 NYC audience.)


photo: via School of Rock Facebook page

“If Only You Would Listen,” they plead in song to a Wall Street dad attached to his phone; a working-class dad who thinks his son doesn’t know what real labor and pressure is; a pair of gay dads who refuse to recognize their daughter’s elective mutism, and a football-playing dad who expects the same from his (presumably) gay son (all we really know is that he wants to design costumes.) Interestingly, the sole mother is the brow-beaten casualty of her bossy daughter. Other female characters include a shrewish girlfriend, and an uptight principal (Sierra Boggess, who delivers the perfunctory, Lloyd Webber ballad, “Where Did the Rock Go?” with unexpected poignancy).

But kids aren’t going to care about the nuanced adult performances or the questionable gender roles. Kids are going to care about the music, which is specifically designed to make them bop happily in their seats along with the actors jumping around on stage, and leave the theater singing “Stick It to the Man” and “You’re In the Band.”


photo: via School of Rock Facebook page

There is also the distinctive risk that they will take the message to heart and, in fact, ask to be in a real-life band of their own. That’s OK. Unlike the show’s children attending Horace Green, you don’t need to wait until an unqualified substitute stumbles, hungover, into your child’s private school classroom and decides to turn them into his own personal backup ensemble. You can just sign them up for an after-school or weekend program. These are our picks for where your kid can learn to rock out.

photo: Alina Adams

Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing Baby: School of Rock
It’s right there in the name. This is the School of Rock, and they believe in learning an instrument through performing. Who needs to practice scales, when you can rock out on your first lesson? The school’s Performance Program features weekly, 45-minute, private lessons on the instrument of your choice – guitar, bass, drums, keyboards – and a two-hour group rehearsal, where the kids learn chords to popular songs and play along with recordings (all while wearing disposable ear-plugs). They also offer a Rookies and a Rock 101 option for younger students (most children are around 8, but SOR is open to enrolling 6- and 7-year-olds), with shorter, 30-minute private lessons, and a 90-minute group rehearsal. Summer camp, birthday parties and a Grad School Adult Program are also available.

Various locations, throughout NY and NJ

photo: via Rockness Music Facebook page

Take It Down an Octave: Rockness Music
Why should kids get to have all the fun? Rockness Music, launched by a dad who wanted to bring his own rock experience to traditional kiddie music classes, starts real early, with a Mommy and Me interactive experience where both parents and babes get to rock out. Prepare for drums and guitars, but also harmonicas and even synthesizers and oscillators. There are also classes arranged around seasonal themes. Up next is Winter Wonder, running from January through March.

Various NY and NJ locations
Online: rocknessmusic

Community Service: Third Street Music School Settlement
America’s longest-running community music school adds woodwinds, brass and strings to all of the instruments mentioned above, inviting students to participate in a variety of small ensembles, and using rock to not only teach music performance, theory and history, but also teamwork and cooperation.

235 E. 11th St.
Greenwich Village

Kid Rock: The Rock and Roll Playhouse
As we learn in School of Rock, “Rock got no reason, rock got no rhyme.” Coincidentally, neither do toddlers, which is why the two go so well together. This weekly music class promises grooving to everything from reggae to the Beatles, grunge, 80s, and Grateful Rockers. The Playhouse also hosts a weekly music series for kids up to the age of 7 at various locations around the city.

181 Orchard St.
Lower East Side


photo: The Chord Club

Rock Plus: The Chord Club
Rock and roll is on the menu at this signature Early Rockers class for kids ages 6 months to 5 years old — but so is pop, Latin, R&B, country, and even heavy metal. (After all, you don’t want to limit your child’s repertoire too early.) The teachers at The Chord Club are musicians, singers, and songwriters, but also early childhood educators. Once you’ve got the kids good and hooked, they can move up to private and semi-private lessons on individual instruments.

207 East 94th St.
Upper East Side

Where do your tots rock out? Tell us in the comments below!

— Alina Adams