School of rock turns 40 

click to enlarge Lending his support: Jackie Greene is appearing Thursday at Bimbo’s in a benefit for Blue Bear School of Music. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • courtesy photo
  • Lending his support: Jackie Greene is appearing Thursday at Bimbo’s in a benefit for Blue Bear School of Music.

Budding young musicians who fantasize about Jack Black’s “The School of Rock” need look no further than Blue Bear School of Music to make their dreams come true.

The San Francisco nonprofit — which celebrates its 40th anniversary with a benefit Thursday at Bimbo’s 365 Club featuring headliner Jackie Greene as well as performances by Blue Bear students — offers a course called Rock Band Ensemble.

“Our little tag line is ‘the original school of rock ’n’ roll since 1971,’” says Blue Bear Executive Director David Roche. “We’re the anti-conservatory. Our teachers don’t look for mistakes to kick you out of the program. They’re authentic, experienced, humane and welcoming.”

The Rock Band Ensemble course even is integrated into local schools’ curriculum; about 600 students in low-income and under-served areas have benefited from programs. Blue Bear teachers work with students and their individual interests in segments that are similar to studio sessions.

“There is an intangible education that happens in a studio environment,” Roche says. “We’re not the first to do it, but we emphasize it. The musicians learn how to listen to, critique and compose music in a group setting. They learn to articulate what they hear.”

Dialogue enhances craft; the results are something that cannot be measured on a standardized test.

But Blue Bear is much more than Rock Band Ensemble.

While the integrated school programming is innovative, popular and effective — many alums have become professional musicians — the school’s Fort Mason Center campus offers private lessons and classes in just about every musical genre, for people of all ages. Rock, pop, folk and blues all get play on just about every instrument, even the ukulele.

“It was a little hard to get that off the ground at first,” Roche says. “But five years later, the ukulele is a big hit. We even work with a ukulele maker in Petaluma.”

Proceeds from Thursday’s benefit will go to scholarships and other Blue Bear nonfee-driven programs.

Greene, who has been busy performing with Phil Lesh and Friends, is happy to show his support.

“Jackie’s a Northern California boy, and he’s really interested in music education,” Roche says. “He really gets what we do.”


Blue Bear 40th Anniversary Benefit

Where: Bimbo’s 365 Club, 1025 Columbus Ave., San Francisco

When: 7 p.m.

Tickets: $60 to $125

Contact: (415) 673-3600,

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Lauren Gallagher

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