School of Rock alumni show reunites old friends and musicians

The performance later this month will include several ASU students and musicians

Performing in a cover band that includes over twenty musicians sounds like chaos, but the Sugar Skulls make it work.

Former members of the School of Rock house band will reunite March 31 to perform an alumni show at Joe’s Grotto in Phoenix. 

The Sugar Skulls band is made up of dozens of students in the School of Rock performance programs across each of the three Arizona locations. Students in the programs audition to play in the band and they range from 11 to 17 years of age.

The alumni show features several ASU musicians who have aged out of the band and gone on to pursue other music opportunities. 

Jazz studies sophomore Benjamin Cortez is among the musicians performing with the band at the reunion show.

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Cortez said he has been interested in music for as long as he can remember. He first joined the School of Rock program during his freshman year of high school, and shortly afterward, joined the house band the Sugar Skulls

Cortez said his teachers and mentors at the School of Rock were “instrumental, no pun intended," to his development as a musician. He said he is excited to reconnect with other ASU students that he met and worked with in the Sugar Skulls band.

The School of Rock provides music education around the world, with three locations in Arizona. The school hosts a variety of music programs that range from child groups for ages three to five all the way up to adult programs for musicians 18 and over. 

The Sugar Skulls is the school's house band in Arizona, which is open for program students under 18 years old to audition for. The band serves as an opportunity for students to get real-world gig experience in the local music scene.

The alumni show is set to be a nostalgic night for those involved, as the diverse group of former students, many of whom have not played together in years, are set to perform a night of covers of various musicians.

“The music was a way for us to bond, and I think that’s what I miss the most,” Cortez said. “Hopefully we’ll just pick up right where we left off.”

Aside from the alumni show, Cortez has been performing in the local music scene and working toward earning his degree. His next gig is playing guitar and keyboard for his friend's band Paranova at its final show on April 5 at The Rebel Lounge

Marketing and business data analytics senior Erin Sperduti is the bassist for Paranova. Sperduti said she will also be attending the School of Rock reunion show to perform with the Sugar Skulls.

"The Sugar Skulls kind of became an extended family for me," she said.

“I’m just so excited to put myself out there with people that have completely different energy levels, and really just to make music with these incredible people again,” Sperduti said. “It’s been too long.”

She said she hopes to also reconnect with her former School of Rock peers as old friends, and for “all the inside jokes and stupid shenanigans to come back again.”

Sperduti said she played in Paranova for the last few years, and is now taking vocal lessons and writing her own music. 

She said her time at the School of Rock helped her learn how to be a successful musician. 

“Lessons are one thing, you can totally learn how to play an instrument with an instructor or however you want to,” Sperduti said. “The difference with the School of Rock, I think, is that it actually teaches the etiquette behind musicianship, too.”

Chemical engineering sophomore Nathan Wolin said he is especially excited for the Sugar Skulls reunion because “it’s been a while since I’ve seen a lot of those guys, and (I’m excited to) play a show because it’s been a while now.”

Wolin said being part of the Sugar Skulls “brought me out of my shell a bit more and just helped me learn how to kind of cooperate with different people.”

All of the musicians involved said they are excited to see what their peers have done since leaving the program.

"There’s a lot of great young professionals who are doing great things right now," Cortez said. "Hopefully it’ll make for some really cool music from that."

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