by Jordan Costolo ‘25 and Audrey Farris ‘25
Rock n’ Roll Revival has been an annual tradition at Sherwood for the past 53 years, starting with the dream of a few students and the help of their teachers. Spanning over three generations it has grown into a pivotal part of the Ashton, Olney, and Sandy Spring community, while giving thousands of students the opportunity to perform on stage. Rock n’ Roll Revival since the beginning has created the space for anyone, no matter their background, to transform into a rock star for a few nights and live out their dreams of being part of something much greater than themselves alone.
Being part of Rock n’ Roll Revival gives students the experience of working towards a common goal of putting together a memorable, cohesive show that pays homage to the top hits of the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. The process of collaborating with peers, practicing chords, mastering choreography, and learning how to work a spotlight creates memories for students that last a lifetime.
The Rock n’ Roll process starts with auditions. Finding the confidence to audition can be tricky, especially for students new to Sherwood or new to the music program. Sometimes, however, all it takes is a moment of inspiration to drive someone to audition. “When I was in 8th grade, one of my friends had an older sibling that was in Rock n’ Roll. I went to one of the shows with her family and I was amazed,” explained Stacy Gray, who was a lead singer in Rock n’ Roll 21-24 in the 1990s. “It was at that point that I realized that as soon as I got to Sherwood I would audition.”
Connal Sahler, a lead singer and dancer in Rock n’ Roll 48 and 49, shared a similar sentiment. “A lot of my friends had been doing Rock n’ Roll since their Freshman year and all I heard about it was how much fun it was and the wonderful community building experience it provided for them.”
Rock n’ Roll is special to Sherwood. It has hundreds of students auditioning for parts every single year, with hopes to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and getting the chance to stand on the Ertzman stage and show the community what they got. “Nothing beat the thrill of standing backstage before the opening song, waiting for the curtain to go up, and hitting the stage,” said Jevarn O’Neal, who was a lead singer and dancer in Rock n’ Roll 22-25. “Also, waiting to see how loud your applause would be when taking a bow at the end of the show. Hearing how much fun my mom and her friends had in the crowd during the show. People called your name from the crowd when the lights were down because they knew your song was next.”
The pride of being a part of something entirely performed by students is another aspect of the experience of Rock n’ Roll, and is one of the things that make it so special. Everything from sets, lights, and costumes to vocals, music, and choreography is all done by the students themselves. Alum Ben Kaufman, who was in Rock n’ Roll 19-22, explained that the responsibilities put on students developed life-long skills and habits. “I remember it being both a lot of fun and a lot of work,” recounted Kaufman. “While I didn’t realize it then, the show allowed us to learn how to work for someone, work together, and develop pride associated with being part of something bigger than ourselves.”
The Ertzman stage of Rock n’ Roll creates a safe environment for students to express themselves and hone new talents in the safety of their hometown. With support from teachers and fellow students, everyone is able to come out of their shell and try their best being their own rockstar.
“During senior year I remember [former music teacher] Mr. [Joseph] Reiff talked about playing sax with wedding bands in the area and he told me to find an audition,” said Kaufman. “So I did, and I started with Washington Talent Agency right out of high school. I’ve been performing with them for 30 years. The show set me up for a career in music.”
This freedom of expression can lead to new passions, realizations, or even simply a student gaining more self confidence than they had before. For example, Rock n’ Roll helped O’Neal to, “see that there was nothing I should be afraid of, and there was nothing in life I couldn’t get through. If you can get on stage singing and dancing in front of all those people, you can handle anything.”
Looking forward, Rock n’ Roll will continue to be an important of the community, even decades in the future. A show like Rock n’ Roll that brings so many people from so many different backgrounds together and showcases Sherwood’s level of talent is a rare occurrence in this day and age. “I don’t think that I have enough words to effectively convey how much R-N-R has meant to me. It’s an experience that I will always cherish and be so very thankful to have ever been a part of,” said Gray. “ I commend Sherwood for keeping this going, so that future generations will hopefully have the same fond memories that I do!”