More than a decade ago, Carlos Santana’s Milagro Foundation made a donation of a dozen electric guitars to an underfunded classroom in California. That donation helped launch the largest, free instrumental music program in the U.S. public schools – Little Kids Rock! The Milagro Foundation further enhanced Little Kids Rock’s service to schoolchildren nationwide with a gift of 600 more guitars, made possible by the Hermes Music Foundation. And to bring this support full circle, an elementary school in Los Angeles that will host all of the city’s Little Kids Rock free teacher trainings, was recently renamed Carlos Santana Arts Academy and the legend himself was there for the renaming ceremony!

Santana and wife/drummer Cindy Blackman arrived early, so the principal gave them a tour of the school that bears his name. He followed the sound of rock and roll to a classroom and popped in for a listen. What he found was remarkable – 10 and 11 year-old Little Kids Rock students performing “Oye Como Va” for some aspiring 6 and 7 years-old musicians who looked up to the young rockers in reverence. The performers turned in awe to see one of their Latino idols smiling and recording a video on his phone as they played their instruments. One student swallowed the nervous lump in her throat and asked, “Mr. Santana, would you like to hear a song that I wrote?” Santana of course nodded and the whole band broke into a tune called “This Is My Life.” A fitting tribute, Santana and Blackman grabbed a pair of congas and jammed along!

Santana Leads the Little Kids Rock band

Carlos Santana onstage with Little Kids Rock students during the school’s renaming ceremony

During the school’s official renaming ceremony, Santana performed with two Little Kids Rock bands on a large stage, a high school group and an elementary school group. He then addressed the students and faculty, and made a generous monetary donation to the school. The day ended with the whole student body doing a flash mob dance.

Santana’s music has inspired millions of people for several decades, but for the last decade, his generosity has inspired the growth of Little Kids Rock, which has brought free instruments and lessons to hundreds of thousands of low-income schoolchildren across the country. Hopefully, one of those students will grow up to be the next Carlos Santana.

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