Legendary Rock Interviews: Rockford’s Micky Rosenquist discusses Rock and Roll Institute

Micky Rosenquist performs at the 2013 Rockford Area Music Industry (RAMI) awards ceremony. (Photo courtesy of CiJay Pikula Imaging)
Micky Rosenquist performs at the 2013 Rockford Area Music Industry (RAMI) awards ceremony. (Photo courtesy of CiJay Pikula Imaging)

By John Parks

Rockford musician Micky Rosenquist is known in the area as a go-to player on local stages as well as being a sought-after engineer for his recording skills and studio. He is now also helping area kids hone their musical skills. I recently talked with Micky about his “Rock and Roll Institute” camps and more. Read on …

Q: Hi, Micky. Before I heard about your rock camps, I knew you from working with Miles Nielsen. Can you start by giving people a brief overview of your own musical background and what projects you have going on?

A: Sure. I performed in many bands before Miles Nielsen and in many other bands while I was a member of Miles’ band. I don’t want to bore you with those details, you can find that in my bio. But during that time, I wrote and performed my own music under the name “Black Squirrel.” In 2013, I cut back heavily from performing with other artists, including Miles, in order to focus on Black Squirrel and other composition projects. The first Black Squirrel album will be done within the year. But most recently, I composed and engineered the music score for Dave Pedersen’s upcoming film, A Beautiful View Of Nothing.

I am a multi-instrumentalist and I have spent many years studying and teaching various instruments and musical styles. My first, and main, instrument is guitar. However, my major in college was classical voice, but I also studied piano, percussion, composition and audio engineering. Along with the Rock and Roll Institute, I teach percussion and audio engineering for Rock Valley College, I teach private lessons and record/produce bands at my Underground Squirrel Studio in Rockford.

Q. A lot of people have heard of projects like “School of Rock” or “RnR fantasy camp.” How did you get the idea to get involved with this program, and how does it differ from those concepts?

A: The Rock and Roll Institute is a new camp, but all of our staff have taught at other similar camps in the area since 2005. If memory serves correctly, the original concept itself was meant as a fund-raiser for a third party, but very quickly it took on a life of its own. The teachers, regular students and their parents have all become like family. We’ve had many of our former students go on to study music at the college level. Since 2005, there has been an explosion of similar camps around the country. The majority of them are owned by one company, and each camp is taught based on a particular formula. What I believe makes us stand out is our staff and their involvement with the local music community.

Q. I was in a band as a high schooler and did the whole demo, photo, trying to play gigs out thing for a while, but there was nothing like this available at the time. Does this week-long camp hold just as much for bands who have been in the garage for a while as the bands who have yet to actually play a note?

A: We need the students to have at least one note under their belt, but I think we do a great job of challenging students of all ages and levels of ability. We’ve seen kids enroll that are already in a band, and we’ve seen many long-term bands formed from camp participation. In either scenario, these kids get to rub elbows with other kids from the area that they might not have otherwise met.

Q. Have you actually found yourself inspired by the kids you deal with or ended up brainstorming ideas of your own while working with them?

A: Yes! All of the above happens regularly. Working with these kids is a constant thrill and inspiration on many levels. As a professional musician, creating and performing music is really only 20 percent of what I do … if that. Self-employment is a constant hustle and very stressful, especially in the music business. It’s easy to become jaded and exhausted. Working with these kids often reminds me why I started playing music in the first place. They keep me in check.

Q. Is there anything else people need to know about the camps or anything else you’d like to add?

A: This will be our first year hosted by Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center in Rockford. The camp, and both Friday performances, will be held there. However, our students have follow-up gigs throughout the summer. The camp is $375 per week and that includes lunches. Find out more at our website www.rocknrollinstitute.com and ya’ll can find us on the Facebook.

From the June 18-24, 2014, issue

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