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PopShop: A rockin' music school
Classes start up in February


There’s nothing like rocking out on a school night.
On a bustling evening at the PopShop music studio in Osage last week, Sophia Lester leaned into her Fender Mustang bass and ran a flurry of notes up and down the fretboard.
PopShop is a real-life School of Rock designed to bring the joy of jamming to musicians of all ages and levels.
Sophia is testament to that. While her note-flurries aren’t quite yet to the caliber of, say, John Entwistle’s bass solo in “My Generation” from The Who, her technique isn’t bad, either.
Especially since her bass is taller than she is.
“OK, from the top,” Sophia said, which immediately made Alyssa Guerry bust up laughing, from behind the drum kit.
“What?” the bass player wanted to know.
“Did you say, ‘From the tarp?’ ”

“No, I said, ‘From the top.’ ”

“I heard, ‘tarp.’ ”

Samantha Carver smiled around her keyboard at the exchange, and Anneliese Stealey tried to suppress a grin as she absently strummed her guitar.
When the ladies of the band known as “Firepower” composed themselves to again take it from the tarp — er, uh, top — a song emerged.
“Buzzcut Season,” by Lorde, the teen-singing sensation from New Zealand, was the first song in the set. Firepower found the tune’s hypnotic, pulse-like groove and didn’t let go.
Sophia stepped up to the microphone.

“Explosions on TV, and all the girls with heads inside a dream …”
The performance wasn’t bad.
Not bad at all, when you consider that this band still has a bedtime and that you have at least two concert-tour T-shirts in your dryer that are older than they are. Anneliese is Firepower’s eldest, and she’s only 13.
From the back of the rehearsal space, Chris Russell clapped his hands and cheered.
“Good job. That’s how it’s done.”

Any old way you choose it 

Russell knows his share about how music is done.
He was the drummer in The Argument, the former Morgantown-based band that made its national name in the 1990s with humor and musicianship.
Russell and his bandmates were still touring when they founded PopShop, in 2004, and set it up in the back of the Blues Alley recording studio in Osage.
The idea, said Russell, an energetic 40-year-old from Parkersburg who studied at WVU and drummed in its famed Pride of West Virginia marching band, was to get people into music, in a fun way.
In other words, playing songs, not scales, in the company of other musicians. 
You know: A band.
“That’s what it is,” he said. “How do you learn, again? By doing.”
Classes are open to students from 8 years of age to adult. Russell and the other instructors match them up, by age, into bands — with a focus on playing, and collaborating.
You’ll hear PopShop rock, PopShop blues, PopShop country, PopShop jazz and PopShop, well, pop.
Rock ’n’ roll people 

For $275, you’ll get 12 sessions at PopShop, and your “final” is a mini-concert for a good cause: Recently, Firepower and 14 other PopShop-produced bands played at 123 Pleasant St. in an event that brought food to the pantry at Scott’s Run Settlement House.
Canned goods and other non-perishable food items were the ticket to admission.
Before that, though, were the final rehearsals. On this night, Firepower was on.
“Oh, yeah,” Russell said. “They get better each time out.”
Alyssa and Sophia were in the pocket, Anneliese was solid on guitar and Samantha never missed a note — on the white keys, or black.
Anneliese allowed that playing guitar, just like ringing a bell, was even more awesome with a full band.
“I like being up here,” she said.
Samantha was performance-oriented, too. In a pragmatic way.
“We’re playing songs all the way through,” she said.
Kris Hash, Alyssa’s mom, said what she was seeing was just as fun as what she was hearing.
“You can see their confidence growing,” she said. “And that’s so important at this age.”
PopShop classes pick up again in February. For more information, visit or call Russell at 304-906-9336.