PALCO — Palco Junior-Senior High School students rocked out with the band Maximus on Monday afternoon in the school’s gymnasium.
Students cheered, waved their lit-up cell phones and banged their heads to the band’s hard-driving rock ’n’ roll.
They were most excited, though, when the band finished playing and invited the students on stage to try out the instruments for themselves.
That’s exactly what the band members and a program with their management company wanted.
“We want to inspire kids to pick up instruments on their own,” said Maximus lead singer and guitar player Michael Starks.
Originally from St. Louis, Starks married a farm girl from Healy, he said, and they have lived in the Lane County community for about six years.
That farm girl, Kimber Starks, is CEO of the Reboot Program, a division of Voodoo Queen Management, a Chicago-based company that manages Maximus and several other bands.
“We are making it a mission to bring art and music back to kids who may not be exposed to this kind of stuff,” Kimber Starks said. “These kids aren’t getting as much of an opportunity to see live entertainment as kids in bigger cities.”
Rock the Halls is the program’s first effort to do just that. It started last year with Maximus performing at schools in Healy and Brewster. When the band contacted Healy USD 269 Superintendent Larry Lysell about doing the program there again this year, he suggested also performing in Palco, where he also serves as superintendent.
The hard rock Maximus played wasn’t exactly his type of music, Principal Roger Morris said, but he liked watching his students interact with the band.
“It’s so much fun,” he said. “You try to tell to kids to stay in music. It’s lifelong.”
Senior Madison Funk let out a little scream when Michael Starks brought one of his guitars to her and placed its strap around her shoulders. She strummed it tentatively at first, but as her classmates called out requests and encouraged others to take up the microphones, she seemed to gain confidence.
She played the guitar and junior David Thompson kept along on the drum kit as their classmates sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”
“It was like a dream come true,” Funk said afterward.
“It was exciting but really scary,” she said. “I hate playing in front of people. I have terrible performance anxiety,” she said.
Funk said she plans on becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon, but music could be a backup plan.
“I wouldn’t have traded that for anything. That was really cool.”