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Interview with Tom Moore

Interview with Tom Moore

I recently conducted a phone interview with a young music writer from Buffalo NY.  Here are some of the questions and answers.

1.) Tom – we’ll start this off with a humorous icebreaker.  The classic desert island question: if you were stranded on a desert island and could only listen to one album, what would it be and why?

I actually have a favorite album.  What I like about it is its power.  It’s a two-album set.  I heard it when I was fifteen.  It’s a rock opera about a kid with four personalities.  It’s called Quadrophenia and is by The Who.  I love the ocean and it has many sound effects.  It was originally supposed to come out in quad, which was a new type of recording.  My father actually had a lot to do with it.  He worked for Columbia Records.  It was gonna be the new thing, having four track instead of two track.  It had motion all around you, instead of in front of you.  When Townshend was working on the album, he did a lot of keyboard parts and sound effects in his own private studio.  The sound effects were gonna cross from side to side, back to front.  They never used it though.  The music on Quadrophenia is extremely powerful.  It has every extreme emotion.  It has anger, humor, helplessness, etc. – all these different things that this kid is going through.  It helped me through my adolescence.  I enjoyed playing the bass parts.  John Entwistle is amazing on the album.  Daltrey is at his peak.  It’s just an amazing piece of music.  Music should be emotional.  I don’t think there’s another album that has as much emotional content as Quadrophenia. 

2.) How could your “desert island album” benefit students just learning their instruments and music in general?

I also teach songwriting.  If you can come up with something that is musically catching and a theme that is powerful as well, it’s a win-win situation.  Quadrophenia is that.  It has the rock anthems, the love songs, etc.  All these different types of song are present on Quadrophenia.  Acoustically, it’s great.  There are not a lot of repeated parts.  The album is constantly moving and developing.

3.) What got you into music?  I know that must seem like a terribly broad question, but what was the first “a-ha!” moment in terms of music, the moment you realized that music shook your soul?

My first concert when I was three-years-old was a classical concert.  It was a piece of music by Prokofiev, called Lieutenant Kijé at Queens College in New York.  However, the thing that really got to me, in terms of music, was going to a birthday party at the age of seven.  They took us to see the movie Help.  The Beatles seemed like a lot of fun.  That looks neat, I thought, I want to do that!  The theme of Fabulous School of Music is the Fab Four.  Beatles posters are everywhere.  I even have a tapestry of the Abbey Road album up on the wall.  We decorated the waiting room in Beatles memorabilia.  What inspired me to play is Sgt. Pepper.

4.) You and the Fabulous School of Music firmly believe in the importance of kids playing together in rock ensembles.  Could you tell us more about this?

The movie School of Rock inspired many people.  Many educators saw the movie and thought, there’s something to this.  I was asked to be the instructor of an after school program.  My job was to put kids in groups and get them ready to perform at the end of the year.  I was becoming kind of like Jack Black.  It was very successful.  I wanted to continue this with the Fabulous School of Music, and we’ve been doing rock ensembles since 2005.

The rock ensembles go year-round.  We even have a Summer Camp.  It’s very difficult to find kids that want to play.  They lose motivation if they don’t see the point to playing.  These kids are at the age where they’re making friends.  There’s lots of peer pressure.  This is one way to harness a healthy peer pressure.  You got four or five kids in the group.  They’re practicing for each other.  The better they do, the better the band plays.  They go from limited practice to nonstop practicing.  They want to perfect the songs.  They have higher expectations of themselves.  It jumpstarts their learning and practicing, and allows them to have a lot of fun with different kids.  Once a kid gets a musical part down, they bring it to the group.  Rock ensembles also help with these kids’ self-esteem and confidence.  They play up on a stage in front of their friends and families.  They get standing ovations.  Many of these kids don’t play sports. This is all they have – the music.  This breaks them out of the shy mold.  It’s a fun and rewarding thing to watch. 

The classes are $200 for 8 sessions and that includes a show at the end at one of the venues in Beverly that allows us to do it.  Some ensembles do original music.  Others do covers.  They can decide if they want to be original or do covers.  They have to make decisions on their own.  Our instructors coach them through the process.  It’s all about teaching them about the organic process of music.  The three teachers that do it are Julian Morelli, Erin Burke-Moran, and Randy Leventhal.  They are perfect coaches for the kids.  Julian and Randy can play, sing, teach guitar, bass and drums and Erin is a member of an up and coming band, Caspian. 

We try to keep the kids at the same level of musicality.  We once had a twelve-year-old drummer who was so good we put him with a group of sixteen and seventeen-year-olds and it worked well!

5.) You once said, “I fought the law…and the law lost.” This was a reference to local authorities and a rock ensemble show.  Tell us more.  Do you still believe in the rebellious spirit of rock n’ roll?

A very bad incident happened at an underage battle of the bands show at a local VFW.  The authorities decided to send out letters to all venues that have liquor licenses and entertainment telling them that they shouldn’t do underage shows. This included the venue that we use for our rock ensemble shows, “The Spotlight Tavern” in Beverly.  It was brought to my attention.  I put it on my Facebook page and it went viral, getting four to five thousand hits a day!  Many friends of the school were outraged.  We had a whole group that went to the hearing – teachers, parents, kids, etc.  When the authorities saw the strength we had, they listened to us and realized they had jumped the gun.  Our victory was reposted in two newspapers.  The school got press.  It ended up being a very positive thing.  The city comptroller even came to the gig!  It was a victory for our kids and for live music in general.

Yes, I believe in the rebellious spirit of rock n’ roll, if it’s used in a positive manner.  I believe in its power.  If you want to say something about an issue you feel strongly about, and you have an audience, it is one way to get your point across.  Too many people, I feel, abuse the privilege.  Quadrophenia isn’t political, but it was more about what we go through as kids.  That I think is the rebellious spirit of rock n’ roll – giving kids a much-needed voice.

 

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