Raider Rock Band goes from club to class

Accepting instrument donations


Last updated 8/31/2022 at 4:12am

Rock ‘n’ Roll has come a long way since LIttle Richard, continuing to both dazzle and offend, allowing young people to express themselves, and now, earn credits in high school.  

Raider Rock Band started as a club last year with history and creative writing teacher Justin Thompson leading the group, and now it is an actual class taught on the stage at Lake Roosevelt Jr/Sr High School, open to grades 9-12 for the year-long course that applies to a student’s art credits.

“Last year, rock band club became something really special, although not entirely what I had initially intended,” Thompson told The Star in an email. “While some students really dove in and learned guitar, bass, or drums, many just found the club to be a safe place to be themselves. Many of the kids who might initially have seen themselves as ‘outsiders’ found their tribe there, so to speak. And in a way, so did I. … A  year later these kids are thick as thieves. That’s the power that music has. It’s freedom to express yourself and show the world what you stand for.” 

The club performed a show last year during a Native American fashion show event at the school. 

“They got their first taste of the rush that comes with anticipating a performance, the nerves, the panic, and ultimately the euphoria of triumph and applause,” Thompson said. “It was so cool to see.”

The club is becoming a class this school year, roughly doubling in size now with 17 students currently registered for it and taught by Thompson, who has played in bands in the past, and with assistance from volunteer community members Dave Roberts, who helps with guitar, and Austin Nichols, who does drums.

“My hope is that returning students can play a leadership role in mentoring the new students,” Thompson said. “I really want this to be a student-driven enterprise someday, with the ultimate goal of these kids going on to form their own bands and, given time, a local music scene that we can all enjoy (or shake your fist at if you don’t like the noise).”

He said students who think the class might be an easy A may be in for a rude awakening when they realize that “rock and roll is all about confidence, dedication, obsession, and creativity.”

“In my experience as a teacher,” he said, “none of those things come easy and all of them take passion, pain, and patience.”

Areas that the class will learn about include songwriting, album design, stage presence, setting up a practice space, audio engineering, and, of course, jamming.

Raider Rock Band is also going to have weekly, afterschool jam sessions open to other students not enrolled in the class.

The group is accepting donations of guitars, drums, bass guitars, keyboards, amps, cables and “anything a high schooler could make some noise with,” Thompson wrote in a Facebook post, adding, “No junk please!” 

Donations can be left at the high school office, or Thompson can be reached by email at for any inquiries.


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