Luxe Life Blog
Photos: Rock of (all) ages: Young musicians steal HRC stage
By Andrea Domanick
Ten-year-old Kaelin Wilson might be Las Vegas’ youngest rock star. Sporting knee-high checkered Converse and silver streaks in her hair, the local pint-sized performer grips the microphone and bobs her head as her band, Rifftide Legacy, launches into a cover of Dio’s “Rainbow in the Dark.”
“Do your demons, do they ever let you go?” she snarls, pumping a leather-cuffed fist in the air.
She steps back to let guitarist Ian Rollwitz, 16, lead the band out with a shredding guitar solo.
“That was awesome,” Wilson says, grinning at her four bandmates.
She’s right. It was.
Wilson didn’t always have such rock star swagger. In fact, nine months ago, she could hardly look anyone in the eye.
“She was painfully shy when she first got here. She would barely say hi to me,” says Cammy Warden, general manager of the School of Rock in Summerlin, where Rifftide Legacy was formed. “It took her a long time to warm up, but now she’s like a little warden, bossing around 16-year-olds in rehearsal to help make the songs better.”
It’s a transformation Warden has seen many of her 150 students undergo since opening the School’s Las Vegas campus last October.
“Their hair is out of their face, they look you in the eye, they ask you how you are. It’s like watching a whole other person,” she says.
The national chain of schools offers teenagers and younger kids specialized instruction in rock and roll performance, with private and group lessons at a variety of levels. Though Rifftide Legacy only met a few months ago, they’ve already earned the title of house band and have performed numerous times in venues across town.
On Friday, they perform at the Hard Rock Cafe on the Strip as part of the School of Rock’s All-Star Tour, which features the best students from around the country.
The skills the school provides extend beyond music instruction and performance opportunities. Gathered in a red rehearsal room adorned with Beatles and Sex Pistols posters, the tween and teen members of Rifftide Legacy speak with the ease and confidence of people twice their age.
“These guys really have become my family,” says 16-year-old Austi Martines, who sings and plays keyboards in the band. “It’s just so comfortable here. They match you with people at your level, and no one judges you.
“We’re all just so passionate about music and the same things. There’s an immediate bond that you can’t really find in your average high school. I’ve totally come out of my shell.”
Warden, a longtime Las Vegas resident and former events planner, says that’s what inspired her to bring the program to town.
“I wanted to make an impact and have a place where kids can be safe and express themselves,” she said. “They’re not in someone’s garage drinking beers and getting high.”
This weekend, the school will open a professional-level recording studio as part of its expansion into music recording and production classes.
While Warden is eager to challenge her students and bolster their confidence with top-of-the-line technology and marquee performance opportunities, she’s sure to impart one of the most important lessons a musician and young adult can learn: humility.
“They’ll do the fancy recording, they’ll play the Hard Rock, but I need to go make them play the Double Down soon so they know what they’re in for in the real world!” she said.