Start A Band On Monday...
Play A Show On Friday

Rock & Roll Institute

Rockford, Illinois USA


For those about to rock...

We salute you!

Can you play a couple guitar chords? Maybe a simple drum beat? Do you like to sing in the shower?

If so, you’re ready for camp! Show up with your instrument on Monday and by Friday night you’ll be playing on-stage in a well-oiled, powerhouse of a rock n’ roll band.

The Rock and Roll Institute is a 501c3 non-profit organization. Our mission is to use Rock and Roll music as a vehicle to educate and inspire musical youth to forge their own musical path. Our camp is located on the beautiful Keith Country Day School campus, located at 1 Jacoby Place in Rockford, IL.

Scroll down to get the goods on R&RI!

Bring it!


Listen up, if all you really want to do is play cowbell in a band, we’re here to make your dreams come true. Our experienced professional musicians and educators are here to help you realize your rock and roll dreams with any instrument you want to play in a band with.

Bring the noise and your spirit to rock out!


Skronk it!


Bang it!


Blow it!


Jazz it!


Sing (or scream) it!




Make us cry!


Scratch it!

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Camp Registration

New to Rock & Roll Institute!

Beginning with the 2024 Summer Camp, we are offering enrollment for primary areas of interest to register for, including:

  • Band
  • DJ
  • Production
  • Graphic Arts
  • Mariachi

The R&RI camp is a weeklong, daytime camp for young, aspiring musicians aged 12 to 20. Musicians up to age 20 may register, but musicians who are age 19-20 must have attended one session of camp when they were 18 or younger.

A typical camp day begins with a Master Class taught by some of the finest musicians and music educators from the Northern Illinois area. The rest of the camp day is dedicated to band practice with a dedicated instructor (per band). On average, we have a 4:1 camper-to-instructor ratio, which guarantees plenty of personalized assistance for our campers.

Together, we work hard throughout the weeks, and come end of camp, we climb on the stage to perform for our friends and family! Not only that, our camp provides optional performance opportunities for our campers throughout the community, throughout the year.

Register today!Register today!
Keith Country Day School
9am ~ 3pm 

Week 1:  June 17 – 21
Concert: Friday evening, June 21
Week 2:  June 24 – 28
Concert: Friday evening, June 28
Week 3:  July 15 – 19
Concert: Saturday afternoon, July 20

I met so many friends that have similar interests as me. On the first day, we sat down together and talked about songs. It made me realize we had so many things in common...We made friends after a week. It definitely boosted my confidence because we know we like the songs and there will be other people in the audience who like them as much as we do.
Georgia Speer

2023 Camper


This camp gave me more than my schooling ever did- confidence, collaboration, and lifelong friendships.

Jessica Dobson

Executive Director

"My daughter loved the camp. She entered not knowing how to sing a note due to stage fright, and within 5 days she was fronting a band and singing her heart out. An amazing experience for the kids. "
Tammie Reynolds

Reggie's Mom




Since the beginning of RnRI, our staff has included some of the finest musicians from the Northern Illinois/Southern Wisconsin area. Our instructors have many years experience being active in the local arts community as performers, songwriters, private music teachers, band coaches, music producers, and teachers – both in the regional school districts and at the college level. Along with their extensive musical experience, many hold one, or more college level degrees in music, education, or both. The RnRI staff love working with the next generation of musicians, and are proud to be a part of this camp, and our thriving music community!

Jessica Dobson

Executive Director

Jessica Dobson has been a musician since she got her first guitar after watching the 2001 smash hit “Josie and the Pussycats”. She attended every week of camp from ages 12-20 and is proud to still be involved!

Jessica’s favorite musical moments consist of good friends playing around kitchen tables, laughing and singing old country songs.

How does she feel about this program? “R&RI is hands-down the most important thing I will ever do in this lifetime.”

Thank you, and ROCK ON!

Kevin Schwitters

Camp Director

Kevin has been playing guitar and singing in bands for over two decades. He developed his musical style in bands such as La Historia, The Braves, Haunted Hayrides, and Table and Chairs. He holds a master’s degree in education and is employed as a high school English teacher.

Stuart Johnson


Stuart is the founding member of the Rock & Roll Institute. He has taught private lessons (guitar/bass guitar/theory/songwriting) since 1998 and has been a performer and songwriter since 1987. He has played in The Pimps, The Sons of Many B*tches, and now spends most of his days traveling or hanging out with his cats.

His philosophy on being a musician:Music gives back exactly what you put into it. I love what I do so I’ve never worked a day in my life. All the good songs are 3 chords and the truth, and man are those hard to find.”

He’s usually in sweatpants with a guitar in his hand, working on some musical conundrum.

Michael Hillenburg


Michael “Hilly” Hillenburg has been playing since he was 17 years old. A true music man, he is currently in The Pimps, Son’s of Many B*tches, and Hilly Jones.

Hilly loves to teach and get involved with music and the kids. His passion is instilling positive energy in the young musicians he works with to help them work with others, as well as themselves. He loves to have a sense of humor when instructing and strives to create a relaxed environment. Hilly is praised for his calm presence, his “teddy bear” nature, and his overwhelming patience with new guitarists.

Rob Bradley

Guitar and Fix-it Man

Rob Bradley has been playing guitar in area bands since the late 70’s. Some highlights include Agent, Puppet, Robin Banks, and the Fresh Hot Fritters. His current band is Nauti-Nauti, a Yacht Rock band that brings down the house! Rob enjoys playing everything from roots rock, country, rock, and everything in between.

Rob says that being part of the Institute and helping to inspire young musicians has been a very rewarding experience. In his free time, he enjoys building and modifying amplifiers and pedals (a passion that he has had for decades). Rob also works on guitars and he frequently helps out at camp by making sure the technical things don’t get in the way of making music. He is a treasure-trove of technical knowledge that we are lucky to have!

Heather Camacho


Heather has been singing and playing music (violin, guitar, bass, piano) for most of her life. She currently performs as half of the Folk/Americana duo, The Lone Canary. Heather teaches private music lessons part-time and works as an office manager for a local small business. Teaching at Rock and Roll Institute quickly became a summertime favorite for her, encompassing her passion for both music and youth.

Tony Chrisman


Tony is a professional bass fisherman— and when he’s not catching fresh bass fish to cook for dinner (and breakfast) he’s playing bass for the legendary midwest  jazz bands, Pimps and Sons of Many B*tches.

Zachary Taylor


Zachary is both a proud graduate of the Rock and Roll Institute and Elmhurst College. Zachary holds a B.A. in Music from Elmhurst, where he studied jazz drums and music business. Over the years, he has performed with several acts around Rockford and Chicago, including; Bloom, Poppy Mallows, and Nat. Zachary was a long time student of our rock n’ roll camp, and now has returned to be our head drum instructor. How cool is that???

Christopher Johnson
Christopher Johnson


Chris is a multi-instrumentalist, actively playing music for the last 20+ years. He currently performs with his bands, Furlight and Purple Hell. After 2 years of working as a percussionist with the Beloit-Janesville Symphony Orchestra, Chris worked at Paradise Guitars in Beloit, WI as a guitar/drums instructor and sales associate for 11 years. He currently holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and has spent the last 5 years teaching general education in Huntley, IL.


Micky Rosenquist
Micky Rosenquist


Micky is a multi-instrumental producer / composer / performer who has collaborated and toured with many artists throughout the country. Micky owns Underground Squirrel Studio, a music production studio based in Rockford, IL, where he teaches private music lessons and records/produces music of varying genres.

Along with helping other musical artists and students find their musical voice, Micky can also be found writing and performing under teh stage name Micky Torpedo. Micky creates everything from instrumental, ambient musical compositions, to rowdy rock & roll with bands like Go Go Torpedo, Evil Zenith, and many others.

Formerly an adjunct professor of music and audio engineering for Rock Valley College, Micky has given many presentations on songwriting and audio engineering at Rock Valley, Rockford University, and Keith Country Day School, to name a few. HE holds A.A and B.A. degrees in music and is a graduate from Northern IL University Music Program.


Rick Zillhart
Rick Zillhart


My name is Rick Zillhart and I’m a music educator at Paradise Guitars in Beloit Wisconsin . I specialize in guitar, bass, mandolin, and ukulele. I’ve taught at PG since 1989 and I love teaching. You could say that it’s in my blood! 

Over the years I have played in many bands with the most notable being Armed Vision and King Of The Demons. I am currently playing with a trio called The Van that combines rock, jazz, noise, and experimental music genres. I have always attended and enjoyed Rock & Roll Institute performances over the years and I am excited to continue teaching with them.

Let’s rock!

Greg Whitson
Greg Whitson


Greg Whitson is a true renaissance man! He is proficient at guitar, bass, lap steel, mandolin, and Dobro (square). He has been playing guitar for 50 years… and teaching for a whopping 45! He has also repaired stringed instruments for 35 years.

Greg has even written his own instructional guitar book and video. He holds an Associate Art degree in music and has played over 2,000 gigs with many bands including Men of Our Times, Three Good Men, Kelly Steward, Can’t Touch This, Double L and the Mustangs, Go Boys, Katie Mann, In Crowd, Blue World, and many more. Greg has also been the opening act for groups such as B. J. Thomas, Three Dog Night, Shadows of Night, The Guess Who, California Guitar Trio, and many more.

Greg has a recording studio and has performed on hundreds of recordings, as well as producers and recorded many songwriters and played on many sessions with other bands and singers. He has written and co-written many commercials and industrials, both local and national. Greg has also written and recorded songs for choreographed dance troupe performances. 

Greg is a 15-time RAMI awards winner, including 4 for BEST TEACHER!

We are beyond thankful and proud to call Greg a member of our staff teaching Advanced Guitar!

Cade Eastham
Cade Eastham


Cade started playing drums at the age of 7 and attended the Rock and Roll Institute from ages 11-18. Primarily a drummer, he also played guitar, piano, and bass during his time at the camp. Since graduating from the camp, Cade has returned as an instructor each year and assisted students in each of these instrument groups and more. He releases music as Turning Stranger and will graduate from Northern Illinois University next year with a B.A. degree in history and a Spanish minor.

Matt Zito

Guitar and Videography

Bio and photo coming soon!

Kuinton Davis


Dj Roland Stone

Kuinton has been a Dj for 8 years. He has Djed Nightclubs all around illinois, has Djed 100s of weddings and events and is very passionate about his craft. Helping the youth gain confidence and a sense of purpose is something that he looks forward to doing with the R&RI.  



Bio: Martin has loved music since starting piano at 5, and his repertoire grew to include guitar and vocals soon after. After picking up a new nickname every year at camp, he is now returning to help with vocals and general duties, and couldn’t be more excited. Right now Martin is a second-year student at Macalester College up in Saint Paul where he is in a campus band and finds time to write whenever possible.

Saxophone Image

Rock & Roll Institute is approaching its 20 year anniversary!

Serving rock & roll lessons to the northern IL community since 2004.



Apply, Donate, Sponsor


Become a Scholarship sponsor!  You can sponsor a RnRI Scholarship in the memory of a loved one. If you have a business, you can become a corporate sponsor. Please email us for more information on becoming a sponsor.&


We accept online donations to the R&RI Scholarship Fund, as well as any musical gear and equipment that you’d like to donate. Please click below to visit our secure donation page for online donations. Your tax-deductible donation helps RnRI keep the musical arts alive for the youngest musicians in our community. 

Feel free to make a donation of any gift-in-kind in person by emailing us (click here) to arrange meetup.

You rock, thank you!


In 2015, Dr. Renee Andino and Dr. Rob Andino from HealthFirst Wellness in Rockford, IL sponsored our very first camp scholarship. Thanks to their generosity and passion for our camp, we now have an ever-growing scholarship program that continually strives to better serve the youngest musicians in our community.

We extend our gratitude to our community partners for generously contributing scholarship funds, including the John McCallum Memorial Fund, Tim “Skinny Sticks” Memorial Fund, The Rockford Area Arts Council, Underground Squirrel Studio, and all the dedicated community members who continually contribute to our Ruckmann Memorial Fund.

Apply now!

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R&RI Non-Discriminatory


The Rock and Roll Institute Scholarship Committee does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations. These activities include, but are not limited to, hiring and firing of staff, selection of recipients or volunteers and vendors, and provision of services. We are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of our staff, students, volunteers, subcontractors, vendors, and clients.



Thank you to all of our sponsors for helping us provide the northern IL community’s youth a place for musical experiences.

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