School of Rock honchos have second disc as the Marvins
Published: September 5, 2012
The Marvins' self-released Waves of Strange is available at themarvinsmuic.com and through iTunes. See the Marvins perform live at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, at the Art & Apples Festival, in Rochester Park, Rochester; artandapples.com. Their record release show is scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct 2, at Callahan's Music Hall, 2105 South Blvd., Auburn Hills; 248-858-9508; atcallahans.com.
Husband and wife Peter LeClair and Carmen Paradise are drinking coffee at their modest Rochester home. Multi-instrumentalists, their house is neatly packed with seemingly hundreds of instruments. They're a friendly, enviably laidback couple, comfortable in each other's company.
No strangers to the Detroit music scene, the two run School of Rock Rochester. Paradise is the manager and LeClair the music director. Many local musicians work for them. Korin and Augie Visocchi from the Hard Lessons and Eddie Baranek from the Sights, for instance, are faculty members.
The couple met at Rochester High School, where they played in the Sunshine Blues Band. Paradise was searching for a guitar sub for her during spring break. She found LeClair, who would eventually steal her spot.
"They basically replaced me with Peter," Paradise says. "And they were like, 'Well, you can still play reverse cymbal on the keyboard and stuff.'"
Though Paradise was "a little" mad, she and LeClair became good friends and began to play music together.
It all started when LeClair would tease her about her middle name, "Electra," making her a "Carmen Elektra." Oddly enough, Paradise has the same birthday as the celebrity model.
She made a joke back.
"I was like, 'What's your middle name? Marvin?' And he's like, 'Yeah, it is, actually.' I totally thought he was serious. So I have always called him Peter Marvin."
Thus was planted the seed for the Marvins.
Paradise shows a picture of them from high school playing a show and they still look just as laidback and approachable in their jeans and T-shirts. LeClair's curly hair runs to his hips and looks almost identical to Paradise's in the picture.
"I'm not happy about this," LeClair says about the photo.
The Sunshine Blues Band eventually broke up. After graduation, Paradise toured the country playing bass with her band Calliope, which was signed to Chicago-based Thick Records. LeClair, still a junior, stayed in Michigan to finish high school, keeping his hand in music everything from instructing at summer camps to playing weddings and funerals.
Some years later, Paradise was signed to Thick Records a second time with the Good Mornings. She planned to move with the band to Portland, Ore. But Paradise and LeClair were also playing as a two-piece. They had clicked and not just musically.
"Carmen fell in love with me and had to be near me," LeClair says.
"It was weird to have known somebody for so long and then one day just be like 'Oh, my god, I totally love you,'" Paradise says. "It hit us really quick. I was like, 'Well, I guess I can't go now.'"
So much for Portland. The two moved back to their hometown in Rochester and married in 2008.
"One of the things that really made us stay is that my brother passed away six years ago," Paradise says. "It was really sad. Actually, that's where a lot of our last record [Lucky Stone] came from. That whole record, actually. My family lives a block away from us. Peter and I both thought it was important to be here."
That's when the two became involved in School of Rock Rochester.
"The School of Rock came to me because I rented the Rock School documentary," Paradise says. The documentary follows the misfit kids in a Philadelphia program as the school's founder, Paul Green, pushes them to expression and self-discovery. By the end, she was crying, and soon after, she and LeClair had a cause.
For a while, Paradise says, they tried to figure out how to purchase a franchise. "We slowly realized we didn't have enough money to do it. Right when we were ready to give up, we saw that a School of Rock was opening literally a block away from our door."
Paradise wrote to the owner, and the two were hired. They helped open the building from planning to painting the walls.
"Seeing those kids rock out ... it's amazing," Paradise says. "You get these little nerdy kids that come and that are scared and don't have self-confidence. Their parents are like, 'Oh, they're never going to be on stage.' And I'm like, 'Just you wait and see.' Four months later, I get to watch that parent's face when their kid is transformed into this rock star and full of self-confidence on the stage, and the mom's excited and I'm, like, crying. That is definitely the best part, because then you see that self-confidence bleed into other areas of their life. And you hear the stories from the parents that say: 'Oh, my god, this has changed everything.'"
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