First Friday Club: San Diego's 'School of Rock'

First Friday Club: San Diego’s ‘School of Rock’

BY POINTWEEKLYEDITOR ⋅ OCTOBER 25, 2010

Cara Bell O’Doniel

Staff Writer

 

Photo by Cara Bell O'Doniel. Members of the First Friday Club rock out Oct. 16 at PLNU's Fall Festival.

Drums smash, guitars whine and basses thump while Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” blasts over the speakers. A small boy with a large red electric guitar steps up to the front of the stage and flawlessly plays the elaborate solo featured in the middle of the rock and roll classic. The boy is 12 years old.

In fact, all of the musicians playing the song at PLNU’s Fall Festival Oct. 16 were young, their ages ranging from 12 to 17. Glen Fisher, founder of the First Friday Club, guided the children as they played other classic songs, including “Come Together” by the Beatles, but he didn’t lead them. The kids knew exactly what they are doing. The band was set up with two drum sets, three electric guitars, two electric basses and a keyboard, but they didn’t sound like a cluttered junior/high school band. They sounded, well, professional.

The First Friday Club is a music school. Fisher teaches kids ages 6 to 18 lessons in guitar, drums, bass and keyboard. Fisher is a well-known musical figure in Point Loma and around the world. A professional bassist, composer and  musical director in Europe, South America and the United States, Fisher studied jazz at the University of California in San Diego and classical music at the Vienna Academy of Music in Austria.

Fluent in four languages, Fisher composes and teaches in Spanish, Portuguese, German and English. “Music has opened every single door there is for me,” said Fisher. “I met my wife playing music, I’ve traveled the world playing music, I’ve gotten special attention playing music, like going backstage and getting free stuff.”

Fisher starts his students off with classic rock and helps them get a few gigs under their belts. “Classic rock is simple, and there are a lot of easy levels you can add onto it,” said Fisher. “I make sure [the kids] get a foundation, some kind of tradition.”

When budget cuts started to take a toll on the music programs in local San Diego elementary and middle schools in 2000, people like Fisher started to become active in their communities. “There are other people doing this all over the country,” said Fisher. “‘School of Rock’ kind of stuff.”

The Paul Green School of Rock in San Diego is another. The school offers rock and roll lessons to students ranging from 7 to 18. Fisher, however, said he teaches his kids something more.

“Improvisation is the goal. Once the kids start getting into high school they start getting into jazz,” said Fisher. “If they can make something out of nothing and deal with the sophistication of jazz harmony, which is very difficult, then they’ve got it.”

Fisher also teaches at Correia Middle School, where he has more than 300 students. He coaches the guitar class at Correia for four hours a week and the jazz band for one hour a week, and he brings in professional musicians to help inspire the kids. The kids not only continue to experience the joy of playing an instrument and performing onstage, but also learn how to present themselves in front of people, work as a team, act responsibly and communicate well.

“By creating venues for kids to perform, teaching private lessons and coaching rock, jazz and blues bands from ages 6 and up, we are helping hundreds of kids realize their potential as musical artists,” said Fisher on the First Friday Club website.

On the first Saturday of the month, Fisher puts together a band of his kids and plays at the Humphrey’s Backstage Music Club.

“Glen Fisher does things that no one else can do,” said restaurant manager Michael Prichard.

And the First Friday Club hasn’t just made fans out of San Diego parents and schools. Former San Diego Padres marketer and current sports blogger Andy Strasburg said in 2003, “In the last 30 plus years the evolutionary process of music has produced highly sophisticated, dedicated, talented, sensitive, and compassionate humans such as Glen Fisher.”

So what’s next for the First Friday Club and Fisher? With a private Halloween party at the San Diego Yacht Club and more concerts in the next couple of months, the road ahead looks promising. “I think that the time is right for this,” said Fisher. “People are asking for it. All I want for these kids is for them to have fun and get prom dates — some social credibility.”

So what’s next for the First Friday Club and Fisher? With a private Halloween party at the San Diego Yacht Club and more concerts in the next couple of months, the road ahead looks promising. “I think that the time is right for this,” said Fisher. “People are asking for it. All I want for these kids is for them to have fun and get prom dates — some social credibility.”

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