Junior pursues passion, forms band

Grabbing his Fender American Stratocaster guitar, junior Alan Ancira lifts the strap over his head and places it on his shoulder. With confidence and self-assurance, he begins strumming the first notes of Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven.”

Alan first started playing guitar when he was 8 years old and living in Monterrey, Mexico. He originally practiced at Necali, a music school owned by his grandmother.

“My dad wanted me to try an instrument, so he gave me his old guitar,” Alan said. “It was very hard to play at first. Guitar has a pretty big learning curve, and I wanted to quit a couple times. My dad made me keep playing, though.”

Alan and his family moved from Mexico a few months after he began learning to play the guitar.

“We moved because of my dad’s work and the growing violence,” Alan said. “I was sad at first, but it was fun and I was happy by the end [of the move].”

Until recently, Alan took classes at School of Rock, a music school that focuses on live shows, where he practiced 45 minutes weekly. He also plays by himself for 30-60 minutes daily. All of this training has greatly improved his skill level and learning speed.

“Part of the problem [when I was first learning] was that I had a pretty bad first teacher,” Alan said. “He didn’t have any patience at all. After I moved and switched teachers, I began to get better a lot faster. I could spend a week or more trying to learn a simple song, and now I can learn it in half an hour.”

School of Rock allowed Alan to play live shows, splitting a pool of about 100 students into groups of 15 to play an 18-song set. The students from each group are then further split up so that four to six kids play during each song. Crowds numbering anywhere from 50 to 100 people attend the shows.

“My friend told me about [the live shows],” Alan said, “so I decided to sign up for School of Rock. The first time I played a show was when I was 10 years old, so I don’t remember much except being nervous.”

School of Rock puts on four live shows per year, and Alan’s final show with them was Jan. 18. It featured music from the Eagles and Mac Brown. Usually Alan started practicing with his group eight weeks before the show, for three to four hours a week.

“The shows are fun, but a lot of work,” Alan said. “I’m not even nervous anymore. I’ve gotten used to it. I sort of go in a blank [while playing.] I just play, and don’t think about the people watching.”

While Alan enjoyed the experience at School of Rock, he decided to quit and form his own band instead.

“School of Rock controls what music you play, where you play and who you play with,” Alan said. “Having the freedom to choose that gives me more experience. I’m done with School of Rock. They really helped me get better at guitar and playing live shows, but it’s time to do my own thing.”

Alan’s band will mostly play ‘80s rock, but will play original music as well.

“Since I grew up listening to bands like Def Leppard and Led Zeppelin, I wanted to play that type of music,” Alan said. “I was constantly listening to Guns N’ Roses and I developed a [playing] style similar to Slash, who I look up to guitar-wise.”

Despite the time and practice it takes, Alan has no thoughts about giving up his passion for guitar.

“Two of my older cousins write music, and my dad had always played me old ‘80s rock, so music has always been a part of my life,” Alan said. “I’ve played for a long time, so I can express myself through guitar. I can just pick it up when I don’t have anything to do and jam. It’s the thing I’m best at.”