The Next Big Gig: MHS Master Class Hatches a Rock Band

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Walking past the band room, one can expect to hear the Marching Warriors working out of the kinks of the fight song, or the Alma Mater.  During second lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays, one will hear the grungy distortion of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” or the face-melting riffs of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” spewing from the band room.

The Rock Band Master class is one of four new master classes starting at the high school this year.  Rock Band is lead by assistant band director Mark Becknell.

Becknell, wearing dark blue jeans and black Vans, answered questions from band students while he set up for the Rock Band class.

“I told them, ‘let’s start with three songs and see where it goes,’” says Becknell.  The songs the group picked are “Come As You Are” by Nirvana, “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix, “Paint it Black” by the Rolling Stones, and “Revolution” by The Beatles.

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The group is open to “people of all skill levels who want to jam,” says Becknell. (PHOTO BY ZACK)

The band is comprised of students from all different grades and skill levels. The vibe of the class is laid back, but still serious, just how a rock band should be.  Drummer Allan Smith was switching between drumming, eating lunch (the class takes place during second lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays), and doing homework.

Guitarist Connor Hurlock was the only member present at the beginning of class, tuning the two electric guitars.  He was joined by Darius Dudley, the other guitarist.  They laughed about the band name “Classic Peel.” “It’s just a joke, we don’t have a real name yet,” says Dudley.

While the rest of the group was setting up, Dudley–who was shoeless and in socks–and Hurlock were practicing the beginning licks of “Revolution”.  Bassist Chase Williams set up the amp to his bass while lead singer Danny Parker got his microphone stand just how he likes it.

“Alright, let’s start with ‘Come As You Are’ and we’ll finish up with ‘Revolution’,” said Becknell.

The group played the song once through.  Becknell worked with Dudley and Hurlock on the timing of the guitar solo as drummer Hunter Gailliez sat down at his half set, comprised of a symbol, snare, and kick drum.

Davis Chu switched between his lunch and the keyboard, playing notes to “Revolution”, patting his foot rhythmically, and chewing simultaneously.

The group is keen to practice, “We’re trying to set up a couple of gigs,” says Becknell.

Becknell said that surrounding schools have similar programs and he is working on a showcase for all the bands from around the area to perform.

The master class is a new addition to the Mariemont curriculum and is centered around students and their interests in a particular subject matter. “It is a student run class, mostly, I’m just here to keep everyone on track and give advice when they want it,” says Becknell.