When it comes to music, Horry County Students Rock

03/20/2014 12:00 AM

03/18/2014 3:28 PM

Robert Plant’s Honeydrippers went “Rockin’ After Midnight” in the mid-1980s, and the Steve Miller Band recorded “Rock ’n Me” in the 1970s. Well, in this second decade of the 21st century, Horry County Students Rock.

This nonprofit program, giving students ages 12-21 an extracurricular outlet to perform, put on several free concerts this past winter, at Hard Rock Cafe at Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach, and at House of Blues and the St. Patrick’s Say Festival, both in North Myrtle Beach.

Horry County Students Rock’s spring schedule opens with a return 9-11 p.m. Saturday to House of Blues, as part of the venue’s weekly “Blues-A-Palooza” series, for free.

Brad Davis said expanding the program to widen the stage for youth across Horry County marks a big step for an initiative he started three years ago as the “House of Rock” when teaching music at North Myrtle Beach High School.

He said the 2014 program roster numbers about 25 students split among “five or six different acts,” spanning such genres as classic rock, acoustic and reggae. Having received some grants through Hard Rock Cafe and House of Blues, Davis said the program also “is all about doing charity work.”

“We try to give back,” Davis said, also happy to welcome youngsters who might be “at risk or not involved with anything else.”

Maybe some participants might not excel at academics or athletics, but they can score on another team, as part of a band, he said, and this musical outlet lets them fit in and grow in a structure that kind of resembles “a school setting.”

“I wish I had this while I was growing up,” Davis said.

‘A support system’

He said parents have affirmed the positive effect they see in their children, “because it’s definitely a support system that some of them never had.”

“It’s made me feel good about what I do,” Davis said.

Besides serving as a conduit, and in some ways, a “producer,” for bands to form, bond, practice and perform, Davis also enjoys sharing some insight into many other vital aspects in the music business, including marketing, booking and advertising.

“There are plenty of great musicians out there,” he said. “They’re a dime a dozen. This is all about putting your face out there and packaging yourself in the right way.”

Horry County Students Rock members play in House of Blues and Hard Rock Cafe “when they’re 14-15 years old” – gigs where big stars play and where many other musicians work their whole life for the chance to play.

Davis, a teacher for 15 years who is now at Aynor High School, said he’s always liked “putting projects together.” That sometimes entails taking existing bands within Horry County Students Rock and creating “a supergroup” to play a big festival.

With the variety of music the youth perform, and their avoiding “tunnel vision” by settling into just one style, Davis finds it “funny that a lot of these kids are interested in the stuff I grew up on,” from 1970s into the ‘90s, especially the “hair bands.”

“Anything at least 25 years old, they consider classic rock,” said Davis, happy to see Van Halen and Led Zeppelin reach a new generation. “It’s almost like I’m reliving my childhood.”

Other benefits he sees include helping youth enhance their social skills for “working together in a cohesive group.”

“Anybody can go out there and be very talented on their own,” Davis said. “But it’s a whole different world when you have to work with four or five different guys.”

Will Jackson, in his second semester as a songwriting major at Berklee College of Music in Boston, remembered as a 10th-grader connecting with “Mr. Davis” and the rock band program then at North Myrtle Beach High.

By phone Monday, Jackson said he would help with lining up equipment and play in some concerts.

One standout song still fresh in his mind remains the Elton John hit “Saturday Night’s Alright (for Fighting)”

“I got to play the grand piano,” he said,” which was always my favorite thing to do.”

Jackson commended that “tight group, with some good singers and players,” and a guitarist “playing with his hair going back and forth.”

Having the discipline to deliver music for an audience can lead to success in other areas of school and life in general, he said.

“I feel like I learned so much from that,” Jackson said, explaining that “one of the hardest things about being a musician is you have to knock on the door, say I have this product, let me show you, and I’ll play it.”

“That takes a lot of courage,” he said, “and to have a program to help you learn to do that, it’s a huge confidence booster.”

Jackson said some shy youth who have joined the program really break out in personality and “become a socialite.”

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