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Jack Schneider has been passionate about playing guitar for decades.

“But I never really took the time to study it,” he said. “Life just got in the way. I was just too busy.”

Schneider spends his days running J. Schneider & Associates Ltd., a training and compliance firm that has served the oil and gas industry in Lafayette for 40 years. When he’s not away in a remote Texas town or traveling abroad, he spends his evenings in his music room, surrounded by an impressive guitar collection.

Jack Schneider plays his guitar at the 2023 Good Time Rock Retreat in Lafayette. Photo provided by Robin Bonin

Schneider’s attitude that he loves the music but life gets in the way shaped the attitude of participants at the Good Time Rock Retreat – an adults-only retreat designed specifically for aspiring rock ‘n’ rollers that first took place at Cite’ des Arts in Lafayette in July 2023. This week, the experience that proved transformative for participants begins again.

This feeling that Schneider refers to is the reason why this retreat was created in the first place.

The brainchild of Grammy-nominated, Lafayette-based musician Danny Devillier of The Music Room teaching studio, the Good Time Rock Retreat, or GTRR for short, offers adults of all experience levels the opportunity to live out their rock ‘n’ roll fantasies for a full week.

Good Time Rock Retreat 2023 attendees: Back row, left to right: Chris Adams, Mel Brahan, Matt Hanchey, Marla Kristicevich, Francis Pavy, Lance Champagne, Dave Trainer, Mike Baldwin, Danny Devillier, Virgile Beddock, Jack Schneider, Daniel Jackson, Steven Musumeche (red hat), Robin Bonin, Joseph May. Front row, left to right: Blaze Petersen, Haley Baronne, Alyce Morgan, Lian Cheramie, Mindy Tobin, Emily Borgen, Brandy Aube, Katy Richard, Meagan Berard Rankin, Jessie Devillier, David Crochet, David Crochet (father and son). Photo provided

The value of the game

“I’ve been teaching music for 25 years. With most adult students, you sense this deep desire to make music that’s always been there. But you have to coax it out of them more than you do with children,” Devillier said. “There’s this idea that if you haven’t learned music by a certain age, it’s too late – or that you have to be born with a certain level of talent.”

For many, once they reach a certain age, it’s all about avoiding the experience of being bad at something at all costs. The vulnerability that comes with being a true beginner is what stops many people from trying something new. They avoid being bad at something for a while until they get better.

“People don’t realize how accessible music is,” Devillier said. “Sometimes it takes someone to say, ‘You can do this, I’ll show you how.'”

From left to right: Lance Champagne, Lian Cheramie, Daniel Jackson performing at Good Time Rock Retreat 2023. Photo provided

Under the guidance of Devillier and other Louisiana music greats – David Crochet, Jessie Devillier, Maegan Berard Rankin and Dave Trainer – the retreat participants are divided into bands.

They learn rock songs by artists from the Beatles to the Beastie Boys and practice for hours to prepare for a common goal: to put on an epic live performance on the last night of the retreat.

“And make faces melt,” says Devillier.

The focus is on playing. Making music and playing with others who have the same interests.

As a true artist, Devillier likes to leave creative space for unexpected ideas and twists.

The show goes on

“I knew the concept would work,” he recalls of its genesis. “But I also like the idea of ​​figuring some things out together. We have to put on a show for the public, yes. But the team is great and will do it. There is confidence that we can definitely make it entertaining for people and put on a great show.”

A band at the 2023 Good Time Rock Retreat called themselves “The Marthas,” after the aunt of one of the group members who passed away during the week of the retreat. Photo provided

After all, some of the best rock songs of all time are the result of playing and improvisation. It worked for the Beatles, and maybe it will work in an exam too.

For many participants, it is the first time they are making music together, which can be nerve-wracking.

“We all know that we’re going to be on stage at the end,” Schneider said. “For many of us, it’s the first time and you want to do well. But you’re working with other newbies. It won’t be perfect, but that’s not the point. You’re in it together. And it’s a lot of fun.”

The camaraderie that develops in such a short time among the group of strangers gives the trip the energy of a children’s summer camp.

“I went there for the music and really enjoyed the people there,” Schneider said. “Our teacher was working with someone else and I started playing ZZ Top and the drummer in my band looked at me and said ‘Yeah!’ and started playing.”

From left to right: Alyce Morgan, Brandy Aube’, Marla Kristicevich, Jessie Devillier, Emily Borgan, Danny Devillier in the foreground – rehearsing for their 2023 performance at the Good Time Rock Retreat. Photo provided

The final performance of 2023 saw each band play three songs to a screaming crowd, and the entire group play two final numbers as one big, loud family band. There are plans to do a similar performance again this week.

Bands and songs are carefully selected in advance by the course leaders. Mixing and matching the experience levels and instrument preferences of 25 participants can be complicated.

getting together

To varying degrees, the bands “came together.” In 2023, one of the groups named themselves “The Marthas,” after member Mindy Tobin’s beloved aunt, who died that week.

“‘A screaming crowd’ is not an exaggeration. Imagine a room filled mostly with close friends and family watching their loved ones achieve a dream while singing songs everyone knows,” Devillier said. “There’s no coolness factor and that’s a good thing.”

Backstage there are lots of high fives, hugs, dancing and a few tears of joy.

The excitement and nervousness are palpable, combined with a pinch of personal achievement – ​​and the pride that strangers are now coming together as band members.

“Watching videos from last year and seeing the crowd go crazy with excitement reminds me how special this thing is,” Devillier said. “The energy felt like an exchange of pure joy that was given and received all night long by both the crowd and the participants.”

But for most, living out their fantasy wasn’t about the final performance. The real fantasy was having time to practice something they loved – having space to play as an adult.

Being a beginner, without expectations or consequences.

Except, of course, to make faces melt.

The second annual Good Time Rock Retreat will be held July 5-13. There will be two final performances on July 13 at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. at Cite’ des Arts in Lafayette. Admission to the performances is $18.