Join the Band

Kids — and grownups — show off their classic rock chops at Café 322

By Bliss 12/11/2008

“Give me a stage and I’ll be your rock and roll queen,” warbles Scottish pop-rocker Amy Macdonald on “Let’s Start a Band,” retroactively expressing a typical rite-of-passage teen dream. But starting a band can be tricky. Guitarist John Mizenko and a colleague took note of that and brought guitar and saxophone students together in a combo class. Fifteen years later, their idea’s blossomed into a full-time job for Mizenko as head of Join the Band. The project organizes kids age 10 through 18 in rock, blues and jazz bands of three to seven members for seven weeks of rehearsal — one hour weekly — teaching them material they select from a list of 1,000 songs. At the end of each session, Join the Band presents them in shows at area clubs, with each band performing three songs. The program’s also open to adults, although their bands are separate unless someone’s interested in recreating the Partridge Family with their kids.

Participants are generally already taking private lessons, so they’re versed in basic chords and voicings … or not.

“Sometimes with the guitar players,” Mizenko comments, “you say, ‘Play an A chord,’ and they look at you like, ‘Huh?’ They know tabs because they get their tablature on the Internet; they don’t know anything about names of chords or notes. As opposed to the other instruments, which are much better with that.”

Based in Van Nuys, Join the Band is expanding into Pasadena, working with Pasadena Rehearsal Studio and presenting six bands Saturday afternoon at Café 322, where they’ll show off their classic rock chops on oldies but goodies by Aerosmith, the Allman Brothers, the Beatles, Linda Ronstadt, Steely Dan and maybe some Van Halen. It’s a lot of fun, Mizenko says, and also teaches teamwork.

“It’s about contributing to something and following through on a specific goal. They can’t just quit ’cause everybody’s depending on them. We see a lot of changes in some of the kids in how they work on their songs because of that.”

Join the Band hosts an open house concert from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at Café 322, 322 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre. Call (626) 836-5414 for details. To learn more about Join the Band, or inquire about its January Pasadena session, visit