“Did you get some practice time in?” Scottie Blinn asks the half circle of students, electric guitars at the ready, seated in the teacher’s lounge at the Sacred Heart Parish School in Coronado.
“Yeah,” they say in unison. They range in age from 8 to 11.
“Good.” The smile in Blinn’s voice is hard to miss. “That’s what I want to hear.” Dressed in black jacket and T-shirt, cuffed jeans, and motorcycle boots, a tattoo peeks out from under a sleeve. The four o’clock school bell rings. Blinn is no longer Mad Dog, the blues rocker from the Mississippi Mudsharks. He is Mr. Scott, and the Rock Academy of San Diego is in session.
“If you can count,” he begins, “I can teach you how to play.” He leads the class through a four-beat pattern where he and the kids strum the same notes in unison for several bars on the downbeat before he introduces them to the next concept: the up beat. “It’s like if you put your sneakers in the dryer,” he says. “Ba-bomp, ba-bomp.”
A fifth-grader plays a shiny black Epiphone. Is it hers? “No,” she says. “It’s my dad’s. He has, like, ten guitars. I don’t think he’ll miss one.”
The Rock Academy is a continuation of the Blues Summer Camp, a music program for kids that Blinn created and taught at the Epicentre in Mira Mesa last summer. “This is exactly what I need to be doin’. I’ve got a lot to share, you know, from 20 years of experience. And I found out I’m a good teacher,” Blinn laughs, “even with young kids, just putting it in their language in a way that they can understand.” Today is the second meeting in a six-week series of hour-long classes that meets on Tuesday afternoons. By the end of the series, students will know basic chords, notes, and some theory.
Peter Harris has been the principal at Sacred Heart for two years. Even though surrounded by an affluent community, he says that there is no money in the budget for things like music class. “One of the difficulties that we have as a Catholic school where people are paying tuition is for the extras. To be able to have an after-school program from a quality person like Scott to come in and teach the kids, that’s not something we can afford to have on staff.”
Harris plays a little guitar and is no stranger to rock guitar. Ex–Beat Farmer Joey Harris is his brother. “I can’t stand seeing kids play Guitar Hero,” he says, “when they can learn how to do the real thing."