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Schoolhouse Rock: Roxford University provides lessons in rock ‘n’ roll to Oxford kids

By Allen Brewer

It’s the week after Christmas, and all throughout Oxford, not a schoolyard is stirring, not even at Roxford.

From now until Jan. 15, all is quiet at the local performing arts school that makes the dreams of becoming rock stars a reality for children.

Rox University is an after-school music program that teaches children ages 6 to 17 how to play instruments and perform in bands. Located on Mimosa Drive, students learn to play much more than just scales.

Tad Wilkes and Carter and Lydia Myers opened Rox U in 2015 after they saw a need in the community for afternoon activities for children. Following in the vein of the School of Rock franchise, the school teaches students how to play instruments using popular rock and pop songs.

“So much of the community is centered around sports,” Wilkes, director of the Roxford University, said. “We offer group activities for children who are interested in music.”

Rox U host classes in the fall and spring semesters. Each semester lasts four months and the students finish the course with a public concert to show off their new skills.

On the first day of class, students are asked what type of instrument they want to play. They can choose from piano, drums, guitar, bass guitar and vocal classes.

Students can also choose to take individual lessons or group lessons to become part of a band.

“We put bands together according to age and who wants to be in a band,” Wilkes said. “The whole idea of groups is to make the students more excited and more motivated to practice instruments. Each student is accountable to the group and it is exciting for them to hear themselves play together.”

Rox U has two guitar instructors, two drum instructors, one piano instructor, one voice instructor, and one bass guitar instructor. All of the “professors” are local performers with a different approach to teaching music.

Wilkes, “the Dean,” instructs the group rehearsals and performs both as a solo artist and in bands under the stage name Moon Pie Curtis.

Students taking individual classes get more leeway in choosing what type of music they want to play. Groups are taught to perform new rock songs each semester.

“We try to go mainstream classic rock so that parents and friends will know what song their children are playing during the performance,” Wilkes said.

Weekly practices are held Monday through Thursday starting at 3:30 p.m. Each student in the Stage program attends a 45-minute private lesson and an hour-long rehearsal for groups each week.

Students also get to attend special workshops, events and field trips to learn more about the music industry.

Wilkes said in the future he hopes to be able to teach students more about the business side of music.

Groups get the chance to perform at a live event at the end of the semester. The fall semester, which started on Aug. 24, ended with the Roxford University’s  2017 Winter Showcase at the Lyric Theater.

“Roxford has been an invaluable experience for both of my children,” Kathryn Hill, mother of Mike, 10, and Jack Hill, 12. Both children have attended Roxford U since 2016.

“They have learned the techniques for drums and guitar from professors who make it fun,” Hill said. “Being a part of a band allows them to incorporate what they have learned individually into a group. We love Roxford.”

The Hill brothers have performed together in three different bands, “Spider Jack & the Snack Packs,” “Remix” and currently “The Buddy Spirits,” and have performed songs by Ozzy Osbourne and ZZ Top. They have also written several of their own songs and performed them at concerts.

While most students choose to continue taking classes during the spring semester, some will choose to take a break and come back at a later time.

The spring semester begins on Jan. 15, 2018, and there is room for beginners and veterans alike at Roxford.

For more information about attending the school, email Wilkes at tad@roxu.org or call 662-801-0456.