From his time performing in local rock-and-roll bands, to his latest involvement with bringing a School of Rock location to Memphis, Marc Gurley has dedicated much of his adult life to music.
Gurley was the original lead singer of Dust for Life, a local group that toured regionally and opened for local rock stars Saliva on occasion. But after deciding to buy into the family golf business rather than live a life on the road, Gurley's musical journey took a short detour.
"Life on the road just wasn't appealing to me, especially because I have a wife and three daughters," Gurley said. "About five years later, I discovered the School of Rock franchise and fell in love with the business model. Given my background in music and business, it seemed like the perfect opportunity."
The national School of Rock franchise opened its first location in Philadelphia in 2002 with the simple mission statement of "Helping Kids Rock on Stage and in Life." This year, the franchise is celebrating its 100th location and has become a popular means to teach children how to play music, specifically the instruments most commonly used in rock.
The Memphis School of Rock officially opens on January 12th at 400 Perkins Ext., but the school will have a soft opening on December 15th. There is a Germantown School of Rock that opened this past August, but the Memphis school will have more instructors and full recording studio.
Instead of one-on-one sessions with an instructor and sheet music, the School of Rock uses a more hands-on experience, allowing children to jam with other kids at similar skill levels. Gurley said the School of Rock business model helps kids stay interested, and they learn the importance of playing in groups.
"Kids quit lessons because they get bored with them," Gurley said. "This model uses reverse engineering and teaches kids to play first, and as they learn to play and have fun, we introduce them to [music] theory."
In addition to the "rock out first" idea, children can also learn the importance of group dynamics from local musicians who have made a living out of performing. Gurley said that his staff of seven musicians all have had experience in the local music scene, which lives up to the unofficial business model of "live to play and play to live" that Gurley has adopted for his music school.
The School of Rock will also develop a house band of 10 or 12 children who will perform "everywhere they can," according to Gurley. The Hard Rock Café is already a national partner with the School of Rock and hosts shows at Hard Rock locations across the country.
Because School of Rock is part of a nationwide program, there are also four regional all-star groups that go on a legitimate tour and play festivals like Lollapalooza and the Van's Warped Tour.
"Everyone I've talked to just can't believe that there's not already something like this in our city," Gurley said. "This is Memphis. Music is in our blood."