Remember the movie School of Rock? Well, think of local guitarist Anne Coombs as the Jack Black of Asheville (just a lot less sweaty).
Two year ago, the veteran musician and longtime music instructor created The Rock Academy, an offshoot of the Asheville Music School (which Coombs founded in 1996). It’s a place where kids learn about everything from tuning their instruments to working the stage to how to do a pre-gig sound check. Basically, she teaches them how to rock.
Like her students, Coombs got her musical start early on. “I was always making my own guitars out of cardboard, with toothpaste caps for the knobs, and pantomiming to the Beatles,” she says. Finally her parents bought her her first real one for Christmas when she was 6 years old. “They got me this old beater guitar, and I played it to death after about three years. I broke the neck I played it so hard.”
Not much has changed in the years since. Just that now, she’s passing on those neck-breaking skills to the next generation. So be sure not to miss the Rock Academy benefit show this Sunday. Besides being a great chance to see the Asheville rockers of tomorrow, all proceeds from the show go to help Give to the Music, a local nonprofit that provides instruments and private music lessons for at-risk and low-income kids.
So in the immortal words of AC/DC: “For those about to rock, we salute you.”
Hey Anne Coombs, what’s your spin?
Listening to now: Stevie Ray Vaughn. I was listening to it on Sirius XM, on the B.B. King blues channel. That’s usually what’s on in my car.
Most recent album/song bought: Santana's new CD, Guitar Heaven. I love it. He has a one-of-a-kind sound that he gets from his guitar, without using a lot of effects. That’s what I’ve always been blown away with.
First album ever bought: Rolling Stones’ Time Is On My Side 45. That was my first ever 45. I was in grade school, maybe 5th grade. There wasn’t much else to listen to other than the Beatles and Stones.
First concert ever attended: James Taylor. It was in college. He had just come out with “Fire and Rain,” so he was already huge. He really shaped and formed my songwriting career. I was obsessed with him and Carol King.
Best concert ever attended: Sade, believe it or not. I know it’s an odd pick, but I’m telling you, she gives one of the best and most enjoyable concerts I’ve ever seen. She just works the audience. She’s a performer in every aspect. And that’s what I try to teach the kids in Rock Academy, that performance is a lot of it also. It’s not just about getting up and singing and playing. It’s about giving a whole performance.
Favorite local/regional acts: Carolina Rex and Unit 50. Carolina Rex is my drum instructor for Rock Academy, Harry [Lewis], and my assistant director and guitar teacher Alec Fehl and his wife [Jacqui]. And Unit 50 is my voice instructor [Kim White] and Harry, the drum teacher. Sometimes the kids [from Rock Academy] get up and perform with them, so how could they not be my favorites?
Favorite band/artist of all time: Too many to chose from.
Guilty pleasure: Tony Bennett. I’m a rock ‘n’ roll girl, but I just love him. His performance, his style, his class. The fact that he went through decades, singing in the 50s and 60s, but also making a comeback in the ‘90s and playing with people like k.d. lang. Now he commands sold out shows wherever he goes. Sometimes I’ll put Tony Bennett on [at the academy] and have it playing, and the kids will be like, “What are you listening to?”
who: Rock Academy students
what: Benefit for Give it to the Music, a nonprofit that brings music education to children in need of financial assistance
where: The Orange Peel
when: Sunday, Sept. 18 (2:30 p.m. $15 adults/$5 students. http://www.rockacademync.com)