Children from St. John’s School of Rock play gig for donors who helped bring them to Europe

Members of the house band St. John’s School of Rock in Lisbon before their very first performance in Europe. (Submitted by Nicole O’Brien)

In February, the children of the St. John’s School of Rock house band began raising money to bring them to Europe after squeezing their way onto a Rock in Rio stage in Lisbon.

They had four months to raise $20,000.

And they did it.

The band’s 12 members, ranging in age from 13 to 18, found success with an online campaign boosted by comedian Rick Mercer and Juno Award-winning singer Jann Arden.

Tickets were booked, bags packed and the band embarked on a journey that left a lasting impression on the players and the family members they traveled with – a particularly large road crew.

“I didn’t believe it at first. This must be a joke. There was no way,” Caleb O’Brien, an 18-year-old guitarist for the band, told CBC News on Friday.

“It was just crazy. Surreal. My life hasn’t been very long, but I never thought I would get this opportunity – especially when you see how much money we need.”

Caleb’s mother, Nicole O’Brien, attended and ran the fundraiser. At that time, the group decided that either everyone goes or nobody goes.

Recording of a band on stage, in the foreground cheering concertgoers.
It took months, money and planning to get there, but the members of the School of Rock St. John’s House Band were playing in Europe for the first time. (School of Rock St. Johns/Facebook)

“It was really great to have everyone together,” she said.

The group flew to Madrid, Spain a few days before the festival, which allowed for a couple of warm-up gigs.

The School of Rock played in a lounge in Madrid and the following day at a market in Lisbon.

But June 26th was the big night – the one every band member had been looking forward to for months and the biggest performance of their lives.

“We just gushed with excitement, just roared to leave,” Caleb said.

“As soon as we landed in Madrid, a lot of people finally realized we were doing it and it just wasn’t a big, polished joke. It became really real in that moment.”

enter the stage

When Caleb was first out of the country, he said the whole ordeal was pretty surreal.

He said that when he went to the festival site on the day of the concert, he was on edge.

A teenager plays the guitar on a stage.
The big gig in Europe for the house band of St. John’s School of Rock was at the Rock in Rio festival in Lisbon. (Submitted by Nicole O’Brien)

“But nerve means you care,” he said.

“You don’t get that opportunity very often and you don’t want to screw it up.”

Nicole O’Brien said the festival crowd was all about the young band, who for the first time in their lives played a gig with the Atlantic Ocean between them and their home.

“The crowd went crazy every time our kids were on stage. They really shined there. It was a great honor to see her,” she said.

Members of a rock band play a song with a singer in the foreground.  The stage is bathed in blue light.
A few days off before the festival offered time for a few warm-up gigs. (School of Rock St. Johns/Facebook)

As a thank you to supporters and those who helped get the band and family on flights, the School of Rock will play a gig at the Rec Room at Avalon Mall in St. John’s on Saturday.

Doors open at 12:00 PM NT and the band takes the stage at 1:00 PM

They will play the same set as in Lisbon to showcase their stuff for those who couldn’t make the trip.

Caleb said it was a group decision to postpone the show.

“They did something for us, so let’s show them what we were able to achieve in Europe,” he said.

WATCH: Watch house band from St. John’s School of Rock perform Neil Young’s Rockin’ in the Free World in Lisbon:

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