North Las Vegas charter school music program ready to rock

Wade Vandervort

Wyatt Coday, 15, plays drums during a Rock Academy of the Performing Arts rehearsal at Delta Academy in North Las Vegas on Thursday, July 29, 2021.

Wyatt Coday enrolled in Delta Academy to become a rock star.

Delta Academy, a charter school in North Las Vegas, is inaugurating its Rock Academy for the Performing Arts this year, in addition to the region’s high school music conservatories.

Some students are seasoned musicians. Others had never opened a guitar case until this week. All of them jumped first, with a two-day intensive before a gig where they performed Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson, Billie Eilish and more.

Coday, 15, has never been on stage before, but has been playing drums for about five years. He said he tapped enough buckets until his mother gave him a battery when he was 10.

The first song he learned was “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes. It’s the song he rehearsed Thursday in preparation for RAPA’s debut show, with his signature Jay Weinberg drumsticks.

His influences are heavy – Weinberg and Joey Jordison from Slipknot, Chris Adler from Lamb of God. His reasons are zen, because music unclutters his mind and helps him concentrate. The second student transferred from Shadow Ridge High School just for the opportunity to focus on music.

Delta Superintendent Kyle Konold said the school first came up with the idea of ​​assembling a drum line that could perform on parades. He went from there to something with even more dimension.

“Music ignites the soul,” he said. “It’s a way of creating community within the school. When you have a program that everyone can be proud of, it brings everyone together. “

RAPA (pronounced “rap-puh”), Delta’s debut music program, took shape at school last winter, though for performing arts director Jay Caballero it has been brewing since 2018.

Caballero, a seasoned teacher who also plays the piano, worked at the Clark County School District Headquarters and was planning to start an independent charter school focused on music with his fellow educator, Alfred Thornton, director of marketing for RAPA. They came up with the idea of ​​teaching popular music to all levels of experience and making it financially accessible.

Caballero said RAPA’s mission is not a blow to the Vegas High School Conservatories, Del Sol High School in downtown Las Vegas, and the downtown Las Vegas Academy of the Arts. Two of her own children attended Las Vegas Academy, which has been a conservatory for almost 30 years.

But he knew that talented students would be drawn to rock, pop, country, jazz, soul, electronics, and hip-hop.

“The kids are going to come with that interest,” he said.

The current “majors” of RAPA are voice and instrumentals. In the near future, Delta will seek approval from CCSD, which sponsors Delta’s charter, to build a suitable and soundproofed rehearsal space. As the program grows, teachers plan to add courses in musical theater and technical trades. They also plan to add this drumline.

When not teaching at RAPA, Paul Shihadeh is the bassist and assistant musical director for Cirque du Soleil’s “O” show at the Bellagio. He said he was pleasantly surprised at the open-mindedness and collaboration of his new students. He can’t wait to get them on stage.

“It’s something that everyone should experience to gain a passion for music,” he said.

James Steuber, 15, wanted to rush. The novice guitarist took over the instrument during pandemic containment. To kick off his sophomore year, he would be on stage with his peers playing AC / DC.

“I’m excited,” he said before walking into an English classroom, his desks pushed up against the walls, to repeat “Highway to Hell”. “I am excited and I feel ready. “

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