Photo Credit: Mark Jaworski

Photo Credit: Mark Jaworski

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Photo Credit: Mark Jaworski

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Little Kids Rock’s 10th Anniversary Celebration Brings Music Education to 100,000 Disadvantaged Schoolchildren

Steven Van Zandt honored with the Big Man of the Year Award with help from event chairs Maureen Van Zandt and Max Weinberg, and special guest speakers Jake Clemons and Bruce Springsteen

Little Kids Rock supporters from across the U.S. gathered in NYC for the 10th anniversary Right to Rock Celebration on Tuesday October 16th — a night that ensured the transformational gift of music education for over 100,000 children in our nation’s most economically challenged public schools.

“The grown-ups are supposed to take care of the kids. How and why we ever stray from this basic formula is beyond me,” said Little Kids Rock Founder, Dave Wish. “It is the way that the world is supposed to work. When the big people stand up for the little people, I feel inspired!”

And what “big” people were supporting our children that night? First and foremost was Steven Van Zandt, who received our “Big Man of The Year” award. Steven celebrated this honor by inviting over a dozen stellar artists to come out and join him in supporting our children. Performers included Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, Dion DiMucci, Tom Morello, Darlene Love, Southside Johnny, Kris Allen, Ruben Blades, Gary U.S. Bonds, Michael Des Barres, Michael Johns, Jesse Malin, Jake Clemons, NYC Hit Squad (featuring longtime supporter, Liberty DeVitto) and many other members of the E Street Band and the Asbury Jukes.

The show opened with remarks by event Chairs Maureen Van Zandt and Max Weinberg, who spoke eloquently about the many benefits that music brings to children and for their personal reasons for supporting Little Kids Rock. To cheers from the audience, Weinberg noted that “…music is essential. It’s not an extra.”

Even more moving was a song performed by Aaliyah Baez, a Little Kids Rock student who sang an original song, “Daddy’s Little Girl,” which she wrote about losing her father at the tender age of eight. When asked if this was the largest stage she had ever performed on, she responded, “This is the only stage I have ever performed on. This is the first live audience that will ever hear this song.”

Aaliyah explained that it was the first song she had ever written, and thanked her teacher, John Flora, who had been trained by Little Kids Rock. The tune was filled with fierce and poignant emotion, leaving many in the room misty eyed. Aaliyah was joined by our friend and supporter Jake Clemons (Clarence’s nephew) who offered a beautiful sax solo. We were also treated to performances by Bronx middle schoolers rocking the sounds of Santana’s Black Magic Woman and Stevie Wonder’s I Wish. Each student took a turn improvising a solo on their instrument. Finally, some younger kids from an elementary school in downtown Manhattan played a precious version of Bob Marley’s One Love, which was a fitting tribute to the evening’s presenting sponsors, The House of Marley and their foundation, 1Love.

The emotional high point of the evening came when Jake Clemons took the microphone to speak about the impact that music has on children and the amazing legacy of his departed uncle, and first ever “Big Man of the Year” award recipient, Clarence Clemons. Jake was followed by his “boss,” Bruce Springsteen, who noted that Little Kids Rock had been “… something that was very close to Clarence’s heart.” He followed this with an homage to Steven Van Zandt that was peppered with humor, reverence and love. Then, with the help of many members of the E Street community and dozens of Little Kids Rock students, Mr. Springsteen presented his bandmate and best friend of 47 years with our 2012 “Big Man of The Year” award.

This kicked an EPIC lineup performances that constituted the remainder of the evening. Celebrated artist after celebrated artist stepped up to the stage to perform stirring renditions of a small portion of the amazing catalog of songs that Mr. Van Zandt has penned over the course of his storied career. Veteran vocalist Darlene Love opened up the concert portion of the evening with a soulful rendition of Among the Believers, followed by American Idol alumnus Michael Johns who turned it up with Salvation.

The set continued as each artist paid tribute to the evening’s honoree. Kris Allen thanked Mr. Van Zandt for the opportunity to perform The Time of Your Life at the benefit event and Michael Des Barres revealed his Steven Van Zandt t shirt underneath his jacket before riling up the crowd with Soulfire.Tom Morello also explained how, in addition to loving Steven’s music, they also respect Mr. Van Zandt’s legendary activism and philanthropy. Speaking of his days as a student activist, Morello said “Imagine my surprise and delight when Little Steven dropped a seven-minute political bomb-shell called ‘Sun City.’” The song was one of the great protest songs that helped topple the apartheid regime in South Africa.

The much anticipated performance of This Time Baby’s Gone for Good by Elvis Costello did not disappoint. The audience was then treated to a nostalgic rendition of It’s Been A Longtime by Steven Van Zandt and New Jersey rock royalty, Southside Johnny and Bruce Springsteen. Finally, to close the night, all of the evening’s performers, including a few dozen Little Kids Rock students and surprise guest, former NY Yankee and 2010 Big Man of the Year Bernie Williams, joined Steven Van Zandt on stage for a song that echoed the sentiments of the 1,000 guests in attendance – I Don’t Want To Go Home.

The evening’s success was due in large part to the tireless work of event Chairs Maureen Van Zandt and Max Weinberg, our dinner committee, and the many volunteers who turned out to make this the greatest night in Little Kids Rock history. We are also grateful to our presenting sponsors, House of Marley and 1Love, as well as lead sponsors, Hard Rock International and Interscope Records. When the last song was played, over $800,000 had been raised, which will allow Little Kids Rock to serve over 100,000 students with music education this school year for the first time ever! Little Kids Rock offers a HUGE thank you to everyone who came out and showed our students such love and support. Rock on and see you next year!

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