Maryville Rock Academy prepares to open its doors in a new location
By Steve Wildsmith | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A one-stop retail space for furniture and rock ’n’ roll? Only in Maryville.
The Maryville Rock Academy, formerly housed in the psychedelically painted Donna’s Flowers building on West Broadway Avenue beside Maryville High School, has found a new home at Fowler’s Furniture on North Foothills Plaza Drive. Rock ’n’ roll courses will resume on Tuesday at the academy’s new location, and owners Robyn and Neil McCammon hope to host all-ages live music shows on a new 16-foot stage there as soon as possible.
“Fowler’s generously offered to allow us to have part of their showroom, and because they close at 6 or 7 at the latest, any shows we have will start after their business hours,” Robyn McCammon said. “They’ve been wonderful, and I think it’s a perfect example of how local businesses should stick together.”
The McCammons first opened Maryville Rock Academy two years ago, after Neil McCammon decided teaching in a public school system wasn’t for him.
“The way I wanted to teach and relate to students was totally incompatible with public school, and I decided if I was going to spend my life teaching, I wanted it to be something cool,” he said. “There’s not much cooler than the guitar.”
At the time, half of the Donna’s Flowers building was for rent, but the $500 price seemed steep. Within a few weeks, however, Neil had enough students to justify the expense, and Maryville Rock Academy opened its doors two years ago. Eventually, the school expanded to take over the whole building, and then the McCammons decided to hold rock shows there. That, Robyn said, changed everything.
“It just took off after that,” she said. “At first we did them upstairs; then we moved downstairs; and then we had to open up another room just to hold everybody. It’s just kept growing.”
The shows were initially suggested by the members of local heavy rock outfit Divided We Stand, which the business officially sponsors. The band members insisted to the McCammons that young rock ’n’ roll fans would turn out in droves to a venue that catered to the concerns of their parents: a safe environment and no drugs or alcohol, primarily. The couple agreed to let Divided We Stand play, and the band brought out close to 50 fans.
They flirted with the idea of other shows on the business’s Facebook page, and 40 different local acts clamored to play. The McCammons held regular shows through the end of the 2011-12 academic school year, until it became clear that they had run out of space in the West Broadway building.
“We were wanting to do more classes and groups, and the old building didn’t have the space we needed,” Neil said. “Everything was compartmentalized, but now we have way more space, and we don’t have that claustrophobic feel.”
The entrance to the new location is located on the Foothills Plaza Drive side of Fowler’s; a sign hangs over the door, and the McCammons will soon install an awning. The door opens into the main room with the newly built stage; classrooms are down a short hallway to the left. A Maryville Rock Academy banner hangs on freshly painted walls of warm red, blue and yellow, and couches and chairs beside tables holding stacks of music magazines gives it an intimate, coffeehouse-feel.
“They gave me the designs, and I helped put it together and did a lot of work,” said Paul Horrex, a family friend. “I just think the world of these two, and I’ve known Robyn since she was knee-high. And this new building will give kids who take lessons a sense of being in front of people.”
Kids aren’t the only ones taking lessons from the McCammons and the MRA staff, however: Horrex has signed up to take bass guitar lessons. Starting Tuesday, lessons will resume for guitar, drums and vocals, and the McCammons hope to hire a keyboard instructor soon.
But for those who already rock, the question now is: When do the shows resume?
The couple still has some moving to do and some unfinished business to resolve in closing out the old location, but the hope is sooner rather than later, Robyn said. Already, they’re planning on a Halloween bash involving a number of local bands, but for now, they want to reassure fans who found a home at Maryville Rock Academy that the shows will go on.
“It’s not just a venue, but the shows have helped our business,” she said. “And it’s good for us as a local business to engage the community like that. We want to keep what we do alcohol-free, because we need parents to feel safe about bringing their kids here.”
“There’s so much talent right here in Blount County,” Neil added. “The local musicians play really tight, and they’re very talented and devoted. And now that we have a stage and a new location, they should be rewarded for that.”