by J.B. Hyppolite

“I wanted to create an experience-only based program where kids could get to feel what it’s like to play in a rock band for a period of time in the summer,” explained Peter Delaplane, 42, creator of The Rock Garden, a six-week summer music program for aspiring young rockers.

The Rock Garden, located at The Crefeld School in Chestnut Hill, invites young musicians with a minimum of one year’s worth of experience. While not competitive in terms of pitting musicians against each other, the environment is certainly challenging. The staff is usually hands-on with the participants of the program, helping them improve their skills. “…It’s the equivalent of living together; we have lunch together; we hang out…” said Peter.

Teenage students at the Chestnut Hill school rock — and hope they roll into a career in music.

Participants in The Rock Garden can expect to work towards being able to perform live shows, one of them on a stage like World Cafe Live. If that’s not enough to whet appetites, each group of participants also records an EP (Extended Play, usually three to five songs on a CD) in a studio at the end of the session. Each student gets a copy.

Students also take field trips to places like the Martin Guitar Factory and WXPN Free At Noon (free afternoon concerts at World Cafe Live). “We like to see what’s going on out there to inspire the kids,” said Peter.

This summer Peter has 17 students enrolled in The Rock Garden, which is split into three sessions.  Seven students were in Session 1, and Session 2 is currently in progress. New additions include a Guitar Boot Camp for beginners of all ages and Film and Video Production. “There’s a lot of one-on-one instruction, definitely hands on,” said Peter.

Many of the students who participate and leave The Rock Garden have gone on to play in bands and/or had their interest in making music renewed. For example, Patty Davis, whose daughter Alanna was a Rock Garden student, commented, “One of the most interesting outcomes of the camp is that Alanna is now asking to take piano lessons again.”

The Rock Garden involves all the instrumentation needed for a rock band, although as one might expect, the guitar is usually the most popular choice of instrument. Some of the music Rock Garden students can expect to tackle includes the work of legends such as The Beatles, Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones and The Who. Contemporary artists include the likes of John Mayer and Radiohead.

“I kind of pride myself on having a pretty eclectic taste of music, so we do a lot of different styles, not just rock,” said Peter. “We do some jazz, blues-influenced music, more folky-influenced stuff sometimes…”

A native of Germantown, Delaplane is also the founder of the classical guitar program at Germantown Friends School, which is also where he attended high school, and he is a guitar instructor at Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square. He attended Kenyon College in Ohio but earned his undergraduate degree in music from Temple University. Delaplane has a son, Seamus, who will be turning three in September and is already playing the drums.

For more information, visit Session 3 of the The Rock Garden runs from July 16 to 27.