This Norwood School Really Rocks

Ed Jackowski, the co-owner of the School of Rock in Norwood.
Ed Jackowski, the co-owner of the School of Rock in Norwood.
Back in the day, Tom Brunelle and Ed Jackowski knew each other from playing on the local music scene.

Now, they are business partners in the School Of Rock in Norwood, which teaches classic rock to students, focusing on guitar, bass, keys, vocals and drums.

Brunelle, who is executive producer at the "E" network and a business partner of  Chelsea Handler of  the "Chelsea Lately Show," found out about this School of Rock, which was teaching music in a different way in Los Angeles. 

Meanwhile, Jackowski was exploring different business options locally.
Brunelle called Jackowski about bringing the school to the East Coast. 

"Tom has a busy schedule out in L.A.," said Jackowski, who has been a musician since he was 13. "But he is from Massachusetts, and his wife is from Massachusetts, so he knew he wanted to have some ties back here. He called me up and said I have an idea for you. He said it was the School of Rock, and like everyone else, I thought of the Jack Black movie.

"We did our due diligence and we did a prospectus on it. I flew out to California and did a three-day  event with the School of Rock. We decided it looked like it was good business option."

A Walpole resident, Jackowski, who sings and plays guitar, found the opportunity he was looking for right next door.

"It's been fun teaching them classic rock," he said. "They love it. A lot of kids have never heard of these songs. The parents think it's a trip because the kids are coming home and saying, 'Dad, I have to learn 'Paint It Black' by the Rolling Stones' or this song by the Grateful Dead. The parents are brought back into time when they listened to music."

Students are broken in the Rock 101 students, who are just learning, to the performance students who are more advanced.

Recently, the school's performance students did a show at Limey's Pub in Norwood Center. Instead of having smaller bands perform, all the students are in big band, working in different roles. One set you might be playing the guitar, and then you are singing in another or might be waiting to go on stage.

"You need to learn to adapt and play with different people, and that's part of being in a band," said Jackowski. "I've been in a band for two years and we've had seven drummers."

The shows are put together like they would be on a professional level.

"We created a band and a theme for them," said Jackowski. The (Limey's) store was a British theme and it was all generated out of British music.

"We rent out a venue and set up the show," he added. "We're going to bring all our gear. We tell them that there are going to be regular patrons of the place and your friends. The  place is going to be packed and it's going to be like a real band playing a real show.

"Our motto is to teach kids how to rock on stage and in life."

Five questions with Ed Jackowski, co-owner of Norwood's School of Rock.

1. Why did you pick this location?

"I live in Walpole. We looked at this area for population, density and kids, Kind of being right between Norwood and Walpole. We can also pull in kids from the surrounding area, Sharon, Canton. We have people take lessons from there."

2. How did you collect all the guitars and equipment?

EJ: "(People) will have gear at the their house and they won't be using it. They'll stop by and say, 'Is this a music school for kids? I'd rather see it used than collect dust.' We have acquired guitars and quite a bit of equipment that older musicians have decided to part with. People literally come  in and say, 'Can you use this?' "

3. What was the initial reaction to the business?

EJ: "It was great. Because we opened up on a holiday weekend (Easter Sunday), we were worried about the amount of traffic we would generate, but we did a bunch of advertising. The turnout was great. Through  the day, it was a four-hour thing. We probably had 200 or 300 people come through the door. It was great We had the kids from the Boston School of Rock perform, so parents got to see what the School of Rock is all about. They got to seeing the kids performing on stage. Obviously, these towns are very sports-driven towns. We had kids that enrolled for three months and then football started and then had to unroll because sports was a conflict. We always have open enrollment and are looking for new kids."

4. What's the difference in going here and someplace else?

EJ: "The kids are playing in a format that makes them feel like that are playing in a band. Both our younger kids, which is Rock 101, and the older kids, which is called performance band, are taught right at the beginning that they aren't going to come here and learn scales and methods. You are going to learn rock 'n' roll and to get up on a stage and put on a show. The performance element is what separates us from the local music store when you go in the backroom and take guitar lessons, go home, in your bedroom and practice alone  and go back to one-on-one structure . There's no real exposure to what it is like to actually play in a band."

5. How did you come up with that fundamental change?

EJ: School of Rock is a franchise. When it started they basically decided they were more motivated on how to play music first ,and theory second. Kids would say, 'I want to learn to play," pick a song, an AC/DC song. They would teach the cords and then teach them how to play it. Then they would ask them do you know why you are playing those four cords? Basically, they taught them the music up front and theory behind it,and they found kids learn faster.

(School of Rock is located at 1250 Washington St., Norwood, and can be reached at Norwood.SchoolofRock.com or at 781-352-2336.) 


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