Kris Hadlock is a musician and songwriter of the arena-rock variety. The Rochester native has been a soldier in that army for at least 30 years, joining up after attending a Kiss concert as a kid in the late ’70s. Since then, he’s been fighting for fame and the future of a musical genre that some say is already dead. The 41-year-old rocker is proof that it isn’t. As the front man of his own band Hadlock, based in Rochester, and as a rock-music teacher at his home in Ionia, Kris spreads the arena-rock word, and people are listening. And learning.
“Playin’ for Keeps”*
Kris came from a musical family and was 4 years old when he learned to play his first instrument, the accordion. Today, Kris plays an array of musical instruments and teaches drums, guitar, bass, performance, vocals, piano, harmonica and much more. During the private lessons he offers, his students have access to all the “toys” in his Ready 4 Stage Studios, including a collection of neon guitars, a wall of Marshall amps, and a blue snakeskin piano.
“I have all the professional gear,” he says, an understatement. “It’s really good for people to learn on stuff that works well. A student once asked me, ‘My guitar has only got five strings on it – does it really make a difference?’ I responded, ‘Well my car only has three wheels. Does that make a difference?’”
Another benefit of the studio sessions is the atmosphere. After all, what’s a rock-star lesson without flashing colored lights and a disco ball?
“Your Wife’s Rock Band”**
“Everybody that comes to me learns drums, basic rhythm, timing and structure,” Kris explains. Beyond that, it depends. Lessons are ultra-personalized – he takes the time to figure out each student’s strengths and weaknesses, and then develops a custom lesson plan for them.
“The first lesson is free. It’s a meet-and-greet where I get to know the student and his or interests,” says Kris. “Then I take them through the basics and see what they’re missing. If they want to sing, for instance, I see if they have warm-up/warm-down skills. A big question is, are they looking to be a performer? I’ve had some kids that are just amazing on stage. One of them rocks – he’s great looking and totally flamboyant, but he doesn’t know any of his notes. We’ve been working on theory and it’s driving him crazy.”
There are at least 16 names on Kris’s current student roster, a list that’s still growing. Most students are in their 30s and 40s. “I teach a lot of adults who always wanted to rock,” he told me. “One of them, a 50-year-old woman, is realizing her dream of learning drums.”
The oldest person he’s taught was 74 at the time. “She was my first-grade religion teacher and had a deep desire to learn guitar. When I moved back to the Finger Lakes from Los Angeles, she said, ‘I want you to teach me.’”
He also works with children who have special needs. “I’ve taught kids who are visually impaired, hearing impaired and some who have Down syndrome,” Kris explains. They have unique difficulties, but Kris’s infectious determination and confidence helps to overcome them. “I study the person to see what I think they can do, and then I put a special course together to teach them.”
“Stayin’ On Track”***
Each private lesson is (at least) two hours long. ‘They used to be one hour, but when I bumped it up to two, the students had better success,” Kris explained. “Right now, five of my students do three-hour sessions! At first they said, ‘That’s ridiculous!’ But I point out to them that college courses are the same if not longer.”
Even though they don’t have the same intimacy of in-person sessions, Kris offers Skype lessons for people who live too far away, or who are too busy to meet regularly.
“It saves them time and I don’t mind, but I would suggest that if you can come to my studio for a lesson, it’s so much better,” Kris says. “One student of mine who used to Skype now drives up here from Pennsylvania. We do four hours back-to-back. She really likes being able to play and have me direct her in the studio.”
Kris also offers lessons in songwriting, a unique skill. While writing lyrics is often compared to writing poetry, he believes the two are very different. Lyrics, he points out, have to make their point quickly because a song is basically a story that has only three or four minutes to be told. “People often ask me how I write a song and where it comes from,” Kris explains. “For me it starts with melody and rhythm, and then I tell my story.”
*The title of Hadlock’s 2007 CD, recorded under the independent Label Lockout Records in Los Angeles
**The name of Hadlock’s three-song extended-play CD, released in 2009
*** From 1996, the title of Kris’s first CD as a lead singer
For more information about Ready 4 Stage Studios or Hadlock, email email@example.com or call585-313-5058.
by Lisa Maria Rickman