photography by James Bland
The turning point came a couple years ago, when some of Marc Solomon’s students had a gig at a church and wanted to play “Highway to Hell.” Solomon, a long-time fixture in Dallas music and the founder of Zounds-Sounds, a school that teaches kids of all ages how to play like rock stars, told his kids, no, they needed to be respectful. So no AC/DC that day. But since then, Solomon has booked more club-appropriate venues for his students, which now number roughly 160. Venues like Club Dada in Deep Ellum, where the kids can play all the “Highway to Hell” they want. Club Dada was among the first to book Zounds-Sounds. “Frankly, it’s one of our better nights,” owner Bob Cummins says. April 4 Dada will host Zounds-Sounds’ “spring concert.” About 60 kids in various bands will perform.

In a little over five years, Zounds-Sounds has grown from Solomon teaching a few kids out of his home to a school that employs Solomon and his wife, Mary Armstrong-Solomon, and schedules 11 Dallas musicians a week to teach. These aren’t washed-up musicians either. Chris Holt of Sorta. Corey Rozzoni of the Burden Brothers. The kids love learning from musicians whose songs are on the radio. But the parents seem to love it more.

“Sydni can’t wait for Saturdays because she gets to go have her lesson,” says Eydie Davis, a stay-at-home mom whose 14-year-old daughter learned to play the bass at Zounds-Sounds. “It’s genius the way they do it.”

For $150, Zounds-Sounds offers four individual lessons on the instrument of a child’s choosing. Once a student has mastered a smattering of songs, he plays them in a band with other kids at a recital. Playing live is often the payoff for a student, the reason many stick with the instrument. In some cases, the kid considers music as a career.

This happened with The Questionables. “They’re Marc’s protégés,” says Tom Kuhlman, a real estate developer whose son, Hunter, plays in the Zounds-Sounds cover band. “To Marc’s credit, he was quick to say, about six months ago, that, ‘You know, you guys really need to start practicing on your own.’”

Now, when it plays Dada, 90 percent of The Questionables stuff is original. And Solomon has gone from teacher to manager.