Rock n Roll High School

Program teaches students to produce rock show


There was glitter. Everywhere.

Under the spray of sparkle, students danced, took selfies and sang along to the same legendary hair band rock songs that many of their parents did in high school.

And the best part, the students were partly responsible for making the concert happen.

The popular high energy, hair metal rock band the Velcro Pygmies performed at Fairhope High School Friday as the culmination of the school’s participation in the Reach and Teach program, an educational initiative that allows students to plan, promote and execute a concert through hands-on experiences.

April Clark, a former Colbert County high school marketing instructor, and Pygmies lead singer Cam Flener, founded the program three years ago as a way of helping teach life skills.

“They learn all the marketing, planning, sponsorship, and set up but the bigger picture is the essential life skills they use – networking, making eye contact, even learning how to shake someone’s hand. These are skills they will use no matter what career path they choose,” Clark said.

The program has grown exponentially since its inception three years ago, reaching into other states and holding about 25 concerts a year. While the Velcro Pygmies remain a staple, other local acts rotate through, including Bay Minette native and The Voice finalist Kirk Jay who will perform in Saraland schools later this year. Jay stopped by the Fairhope performance to greet the crowd.

Clark added that the program also gives students a chance to explore a career they never considered.

“Some of our students really discover something they love to do and this gives them a platform to develop the confidence they need to develop those passions,” she said.

In Michael McCrady’s PiraGraphiX career tech classroom at Fairhope, many of his students stumble into the world of multimedia in the same way. The class was responsible for all the marketing materials for Friday’s concert including the tickets and design of the custom guitar given away at the end of the show.

Senior Sam Parfait said after he dropped physics he had an open spot on his schedule. He took the multimedia class to fill a space. It ended up fulfilling him.

“I really like it. It’s school work but it’s not,” Parfait said. “It’s creative.”

In McCrady’s class students earn certifications in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator but also master the printing and installation side of the business, something done at no other major program in the state. Graduates of the Fairhope program have gone on to work for national companies such as Lockheed Martin and Xerox.

In the class, homework is real work. Students have designed, printed and installed projects for nearby non-profits, churches and their peers. Much of the signage on the floors and walls of Fairhope High and Middle schools was their creation.

Parfait designed the guitar while Senior Ethan Lyons and Junior Trent Mayr designed the tickets.

Parfait said he plans on studying sports management, a career McCrady said will be boosted with the multimedia backround.

“It’s great as a teacher to see the growth and see somebody’s eyes open up and learn something that they can use for the rest of their life,” McCrady said.

The Velcro Pygmies agree. At Tuesday’s concert, Flener encouraged the crowd to embrace their uniqueness. The concert was as much a chance to enjoy a rock concert as it was to encourage the students love themselves.

“I don’t care what color you are, how tall you are or how athletic you are,” he said. “Everybody in this room is unique and everybody in this room has the ability to change the world.

“Every single person in this room is a weirdo,” Flener said. “You know what I want you to do? I want you to embrace it and be the weirdo that you are.”