The band assembled in front of the exposed brick wall adorning the name of Chicago blues legend Buddy Guy. They plugged in, turned up their volume and grooved to the familiar 12 bars of “Sweet Home Chicago” while the audience sat, captivated by the blues. Then, they turned their amps up even louder and exploded into a quaking rendition of AC/DC’s Back in Black, bringing the crowd to its feet in roaring applause. The band’s average age… 12 years old.
The stage at Buddy Guy’s Legends was filled with Chicago Public School students who benefit from national nonprofit Little Kids Rock’s innovative music program, free instruments and curricular resources. The audience was comprised of local supporters who had generously donated to the evening’s battle of the bands fundraiser, named Big Kids Rock because the rest of the musical lineup was made up of adult supporters who were rocking out so that kids could get access to the transformational gift of music education in school, even when budget cuts are eliminating music and arts programs nationwide.
Nearly $100,000 was raised at the third annual Chicago-based benefit through ticket sales, donations, and a live auction that included items like a personalized, private dinner from Eddie V’s, Cubs vs. Yankees field level tickets and access to batting practice with Ryan Dempster, and an autographed guitar, amplifier, and meet-and-greet with the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and club owner, Buddy Guy! When a $100,000 matching gift was announced toward the end of the event, the donations continued to roll in well after the night ended.
As for the “Big Kids” who rocked….
Superheat opened the night with some acoustic rock favorites. Led by a couple of engineers from McGuire Engineers and Atomatic Mechanical Services, and joined by some Little Kids Rock staff and even students, the band kicked the night off with some high energy and great sing-alongs. The highlight was the band’s finale when former Little Kids Rock teacher and Superheat bassist Paul Gilvary handed his bass guitar to a former student of his, who had surpassed her teacher in skill and held it down for “What I Like About You.”
MorTen followed with a set that featured some heavier rock music, mostly influenced by Pearl Jam (hence the band’s name). What made this set really special was that the band members were all old friends from Morton, IL who reunited for the first time in over 25 years to journey back down memory lane and rediscover their childhood passion for making music together. What better atmosphere to do this than a benefit for music education!?
CBRE Speedwagon closed the night with a lively set that included drums, keys, guitar, bass, harmonica, and saxophone! The crowd was as loud as they’d been all night!
The expert panel of judges from Pandora Radio convened, and the decision was unanimous… CBRE Speedwagon would take home the trophy (an actual electric guitar neck emerging from an oversized wooden guitar pick!), but the real winners were the more than 4,000 Chicago Public School students who would benefit from having Modern Band music programs launched in their classrooms.