I first stumbled upon Rock & Roll After School in 2011, when I was hired to MC a Bar Mitzvah at the facility. I thought to myself then, “what a strange name for an event venue”, so I decided to check it out for myself. That’s when I met the founder and creative force behind Rock & Roll After School… Erin Riley.
Long story short, Erin and I became fast friends, and this magical place was far more than an event facility, but as cool as it was then, within three years time, it would get even cooler.
In 2013, Erin phoned me and said “We’ve moved to a brand new facility and I’d love you to check it out and let me know what you think”.
Wow is what I thought.
In 2014, Rock & Roll After School opened the doors to its new state-of-the-art facility in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, and again, all I can say is “wow”. Of course, wow doesn’t quite do it justice, but I’ve never found myself so speechless about a place that has so much to talk about. As an event professional, I’m very excited to be involved in such a unique space, and I look forward to taking part in all of the events that are already being planned here. It’s a great spot for a kids party, Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah or Sweet 16.
The stage area and central space
The venue is a massive 13,000 square feet, and as you can see from these photos, there is lots of space and super cool atmosphere. The space requires little to no extracurricular decor because, well, it’s just cool the way it is. There are many different and uniquely themed rooms and areas within the space that provide endless awe and ambiance.
The “Green Room”
The “Rock Room”
The game room (overlooking the stage area)
And even a basketball court!
For me, the consummate lover of all things music, the most magical thing about Rock & Roll After School is not that it is an amazing event venue (which it is), but that during the week, it is a place for young people to come together to learn, play, and write music. What could be better? This is not an event space that was created to be an event space, but instead it quite the opposite… a space in which young people are encouraged to create.
Erin Riley, the schools founder, is no stranger to Rock & Roll. She spent a decade as Music Director and Assistant Program Director for 93.3 WMMR in Philadelphia and that’s just for starters. Admittedly I pick her brain at every opportunity to hear her casually talk of stories involving the likes of Keith Richards, Jon Bon Jovi and Steven Tyler as if these were every day occurrences. She’s just that cool. But when I change the subject to her school, her words become less casual allowing her true passion to shine through… The kids.
I recently had the opportunity to experience the students of the school perform, and I was admittedly quite surprised. This wasn’t the local high school orchestra tuning up for a fall concert, but regular kids – ages thirteen to fifteen – playing as tightly a Rock band that had been touring for years. Yet, in-between, I witnessed the kids “hanging out” like regular kids. They weren’t texting, or playing video games, but instead they were interacting with one another, and with adults!! I was quite impressed.
I asked Erin if all the kids were as proficient, and she said they had all skill levels, and the school offered something for the novice on up to the expert skill level. And unlike other Rock schools, Rock & Roll After School offers not only instruction in musical instruments, but music theory, composition, but, get this… Original song writing! Yep, the future Lennon/McCartney might just get their start at Rock & Roll After School!
Toward the end of our conversation, Erin looked at me with a look of great pride and said that even better than learning music, these kids are making friends. In learning to make music together, they are learning teamwork, and self-confidence, and respect, and perhaps best of all, learning to value their own ideas and grow as individuals in an environment that promotes imagination and creativity.
I couldn’t help but be reminded of the words Bill Cosby would recite each week at the opening of the Fat Albert and The Cosby Kids show back in the 1970s:
Coming at you with music and fun, and if you’re not careful you may learn something before it’s done.
So as an event space, or as a place for kids to grow, have great experiences, and feel cool, this place is awesome. Be sure to check out Rock & Roll After School, it totally rocks.