School of Rock Glenbrook's first AllStar is going places

Living out of a suitcase. Eight-hour bus rides. Different clubs nightly. Dealing with recording engineers.

The life of a touring musician can be grueling.

Camryn Napoli is all in.

At just 15, the keyboard player aced three auditions to become the School of Rock Glenbrook's first School of Rock AllStar. It earned her and 22 fellow AllStars a Southeast tour of prime rooms in Nashville, Memphis, North Carolina and Atlanta.

Napoli was among the fewer than 1% of the 62,000 School of Rock Performance Program student musicians selected. It was the first year the nearly 3-year-old Glenbrook location could submit students for AllStar auditions.

"I hope to continue with this career. I'm very passionate about it," said Napoli of Mount Prospect.

Starting with classical piano in kindergarten, Napoli didn't get a real charge out of playing music until she switched from Chopin to performing music she liked, such as The Doors, Fleetwood Mac, No Doubt.

She turned the corner in June 2021 when she enrolled at School of Rock Glenbrook, 3139 Dundee Road in Northbrook.

"It was my dad (Jack). He loves rock music, so he was like, 'You should check this out.' That was before COVID. Then COVID hit, I thought, I don't know if I should do this, but I went ahead and did it, and I loved it so much," Napoli said.

  Hersey High School sophomore Camryn Napoli is the first AllStar out of School of Rock Glenbrook. John Starks/

Neither of her parents are musicians. Her father is a carpenter and her mother is an organizational change manager.

Still, parental influence seeped in.

"We don't play instruments, we love music," Catherine Napoli said. "I wanted to play the piano, so I guess I nurtured that in Camryn because it's something I always wanted to play."

Camryn has started her own band with other School of Rock students, the Chi-Town 6, which played the Tough as Nails festival at the Oak Park School of Rock on Aug. 6. She played at Milwaukee's Summerfest June 29-July 1 with other musicians from the Glenbrook school's audition-based House Band.

Winning audition performances of Pink Floyd's "The Great Gig in the Sky" and Ray Charles' "Mess Around" earned the Hersey High School sophomore her position on the Southeast tour.

"The biggest thing was to show your range in playing," Napoli said. A mournful rumination on death and a taproom rollick certainly apply.

School of Rock Glenbrook General Manager Erica Vazzano said the shy Napoli needed to be talked into joining the Performance Program, a common occurrence.

"Kids are scared and nervous about playing in front of other kids, but that is what is so magical about School of Rock," Vazzano said. "Once they build confidence, they can do anything. She went from that shy kid to being an AllStar."

Receiving the happy news on June 8 that she'd passed the audition, Napoli practiced the tour set list with her main instructor Michael Brooks, music teacher John Lauler and House Band director Dave Vazzano, Erica's husband.

Camryn Napoli, the first AllStar out of School of Rock Glenbrook, plays keyboards at Growlers in Memphis on July 24. Courtesy of Amanda Wisniewski

Napoli was on the road from July 21-30. Her Southeast group was among seven teams that toured regionally in the United States in July and early August.

The tour also partnered with The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide to promote healthy practices on the road for a touring musician. A portion of ticket sales went to support the society.

It was a large ensemble that rotated in three keyboard players and musicians came from multiple states, plus Brazil and Canada. Napoli played Nord and Roland keyboards on eight of the 18 songs including a favorite, No Doubt's "Tragic Kingdom."

After three days of rehearsal at the West Cobb School of Rock outside Atlanta, the Southeast Team played Growlers in Memphis; Nashville's City Winery; Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, North Carolina; Snug Harbor in Charlotte; and The Masquerade in Atlanta, at the tour's end.

While in Nashville, the AllStars recorded music at The Sound Emporium, one of the studios where Taylor Swift recorded her debut album.

"The people there were very sweet," Napoli said. "They were very understanding that it was a bunch of kids recording."

Another highlight, so to speak, was the eight-hour bus ride from Nashville to Carrboro.

"The whole routine was basically going on a tour bus in the morning, then playing a gig from 5-10 p.m., then stop by a hotel and sleep off all the exhaustion. And then early in the morning we'd do it again," Napoli said. "I don't think I'd be able to keep up with doing that every night, but I'd sure love to do it, to have that touring experience."

Gaining confidence, meeting and learning from fellow musicians, most of them older, each with their own techniques and stories - "they took her under their wing," her father said. Then the plan is returning to School of Rock Glenbrook.

"Especially after this tour, a lot of people I've been playing with the whole time really inspired me to keep going with it - hopefully at colleges like Berklee or Belmont that really center around music, and the music business. I'm hoping to make a career out of it," she said.

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