While sitting in the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City for Little Kids Rock’s annual Big Kids Rock battle of the bands fundraiser about to judge a musical performance featuring Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal and his double neck guitar, 18 year-old Max Sperber reflected on his days in middle school when this scenario was little more than a dream.
Max described himself in three ways when he was in middle school: A musician, music lover, and an outsider. The lack of an official music program at his school left Max without a vehicle to connect with other students.
“There was some sort of after-school thing with one of the history teachers but all the school had was a single guitar donated by a student and a snare drum. As a musician and in general music lover, this was a big let down,” says Max.
Once Max went on to high school at NYC iSchool, which happened to have a budding Little Kids Rock program, everything changed for him.
“My second day there I met Josh Paris, the music teacher. Not only did he have the biggest room in the school, but there were also 20+ guitars, two upright electric pianos, three electric guitars, one bass guitar and I don’t even know how many little plug-in keyboards,” he says.
The scene was overwhelming, but also fascinating and intriguing for Max.
“I thought the only schools that could have so many instruments were places like LaGuardia,” he says.
Max decided to dive right in, asking Mr. Paris if he could stay after school to help set up the drum set in an effort to totally immerse himself in the school’s music program. Since then, Mr. Paris has had a very significant impact on Max’s music education experience and has become a mentor to him, in school and in life.
Max recently graduated from NYC iSchool and will be attending City College in the fall, majoring in Music Performance.
“’Little Kids Rock’ has helped hundreds of thousands of kids just like me be able to pick up a guitar, bass, drumsticks, microphone or sit behind a piano. It can give a haven of sorts where they can just be themselves. I’m the proof! Little Kids Rock really does rock!” he says.
“It’s enriched my life in so many ways! Without the help Little Kids Rock gave to my school, I have no idea what I’d be doing!”
On this summer evening, he is still in awe of what he is doing as he sits at the judges’ table with his teacher, Mr. Paris, and his classmate, about to critique Bumblefoot’s performance.
“You were great,” Max says to the Guns N’ Roses shredder, “but you look like you could use a few lessons. I know a great teacher…”
Written by Nicole Valenti