The Green Room: Pat Sommers Rock Shop

The Green Room is a weekly series previewing, reviewing and featuring the bands and artists in Vienna. Group of Vienna teens play Saturday at Jammin' Java

If Pat Sommers published a rock'n'roll version of the Bible, he might have a chapter called 'And a little child shall lead the band!' And it wouldn't be far from the truth.

Looking to let young musicians run the show, and give them a taste of what it takes to make it big, Sommers runs "Pat Sommers Rock Shop," a hands-on music workshop for kids and teens as young as 10 or 11 to age 17.

On Saturday, Sommers will bring a group without a night license among them to Jammin' Java, where they'll shred on guitars, pound drums, pummel piano keys. Perhaps none are up there with The Stones - yet. But one thing's for sure: they know that getting on stage takes work.

The young musicians must audition for the program, which teaches them how to perform, work within a band, write songs and hone their musical talent.

"Unlike those other [schools] where you just plunk down your money and you're in, our students have to audition to get in. Our motto here is simple: 'Rock Done Right,'" said Angie (Sommers) McCort, who helps run the program.

Despite the program's success (the shop's groups regularly gig in the area and are preparing for a show in New York City in April), McCort and Sommers haven't been running the Vienna-based workshop for very long. Sommers, who's played guitar with everyone from Kiss's Ace Frehley to The Who's Roger Daltrey, started the original Rock Shop in August of 2010 in the former Soundry space.

Soon, "We were, like, an overnight success," McCort said. "We had so many students, that, within a year, we had to move to a bigger place. So, by June 2011, we found a great spot [on Tyco Road]. One of the biggest differences from the old spot is we now have a 20 ft. stage for the bands to play on. It makes so much more sense. That's the size stage kids will be playing on in the real world."

The students taken into the program each year assemble themselves into groups with Sommers' help, based on musical interest and the instruments they play. They perform covers and also write some songs of their own. The result is an eclectic show: On Saturday, there will scarcely be a modern-or classic-sound not represented by one of the seven bands playing. The more 'established' groups will play five songs; the newer ones will debut with two or three.

"We have a punk band, a metal band, an all-girl bad," McCort said. "Plus, it's really cool when a kid comes to audition for us and says she loves Jimmy Page or he loves Bono. They're already into the good stuff."

There's no better testimonial to the almost religious fervor the kids feel for Sommers and his Rock Shop than the one that comes from Suzie Buist. This 14 year old, who will be performing with her band Rock A Bye on Saturday, is not only a promising singer and keyboardist. She happens to be McCort's daughter, as well.

"I'm really into Heart, Led Zeppelin and Joan Jett," said Buist, Sommers' step daughter. "I think I owe a lot of my interests to [Sommers]. When I was really young, he'd say, 'You just have to listen to this song.' And even though it might be 20 years old, it was always cool."

Buist also mentions that Sommers has helped her "a lot" with her vocal technique.

"Mostly, just practical stuff. He reminds me to rest my voice on show days. Oh yeah, and to drink plenty of water. Good common sense stuff like that," she said.

Without wanting her to give her whole act away, I do ask Buist if she can tell me a song or two she and her band will be playing at Jammin Java.

"We're doing a song called 'Rock Myself To Sleep,' by Starship. Also 'Rock And Roll,' by Zeppelin. I guess you can tell by those titles the sort of stuff I like. But I also do ballads, too. Especially, 'Home Sweet Home,' by Motley Crue. That's one of my favorites," she said.

Like the precocious, future rock star she sounds like, Buist ends with common sense and a good plug.

"If you want to find anything of mine, I'm pretty sure there's a video of me singing the Crue song. Go to YouTube. I think it's posted up there."

at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Jammin' Java. There will be seven bands performing. Tickets are $10. This will be a Standing Room Early show, so seating will be limited. For more information go to www.jamminjava.com


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