How Music Has Changed Every Part of My Life

By Published On: August 30, 2020Categories: From the Classroom

Music reaches all corners of the globe. It is everywhere and for everyone. My appreciation for music started before I even knew it. At the tender age of 4, I recall standing in church, in awe of the drum set while the musicians played my favorite video game theme song. After wrapping up, the drummer invited me to play his set, and I absolutely lost it. I did not play well, but I surely played passionately! That memory lives in a special place within my heart. You see, music does more than entertain. It heals, inspires, and awakens.

My name is Clayton McIntyre. I’m a proud husband and father, the founder of a music production and songwriting company, a member of a live band, and the Teaching and Learning Assistant at Little Kids Rock. I’m certain music changes lives, knowing how it has inspired me. It changed my life from the day I began taking Little Kids Rock classes back in eighth grade, and the fact that I have come full circle from being a LKR student to now working for the organization is a major source of pride for me.

I was raised with a very strict school, home, church, home schedule. I did not spend a lot of time socializing. That was Mom’s way of keeping us safe and out of trouble. See, gang activity was quite common around Orange, New Jersey. Some of my classmates affiliated with those gangs even brought that culture to school. I grew up in an environment where being quiet and less known was the safest bet to avoid trouble and drama. So, I became very good at that. I grew up with strong morals and values instilled by my mother and the teachings of the church.

In eighth-grade, my curiosity brought something that would shape my school journey in a big way. I saw students carrying mysteriously large instrument cases to a classroom after school and followed along. Mr. Alan Christian, the instructor of what I would soon learn to be the Little Kids Rock program, welcomed me to a lesson to explore my interest. I was shy and intimidated, but there was something about the way Mr. Christian taught that caused me to feel at ease almost instantly. I could feel his love for teaching.

I found myself in a room full of unfamiliar faces, holding a strange instrument (soon to learn an acoustic guitar), hoping to learn the awkward finger positions. Mr. Christian guided us through three notes, A, D, and E, and introduced a simple strumming pattern. It had only been 30 minutes and I was playing the guitar!

To my surprise, when the lesson finished, it got even better. My classmates and I were told to take our guitars home to practice. This never happens and all I could think was, wow! The feeling of encouragement prompted me to advance through the booklet of chords over that very weekend. I became engrossed in learning and practicing every chance I could.

After graduating from the eighth-grade and throughout high school, I continued to explore music through marching band, church, and friends. When I moved to the campus of Rutgers University for undergraduate studies, I met a variety of artists. I connected with other musicians to produce music and became the musical director for a band that hosted open mic shows across major NJ cities. By this time, I was convinced that I should pursue a career in music. I had to depart from Rutgers earlier than anticipated, due to unforeseen circumstances. Though that period in my life was uncertain, music was and continues to be, a source of joy and comfort.

My passion for music remained and I decided to move to Jamaica to pursue a professional career in music production. Thankfully, I was successful in my endeavor. I had the privilege of working with a multi-platinum artist and talented touring artists. I provided music production services, live performance preparation, and traveled to play shows. In 2015, I returned to NJ, founded a music production and songwriting company, and continue to produce and play live music professionally.

As I reflect on my journey as a musician, I think to my instructor, Mr. Christian. He believed in me and demonstrated that by taking extra time to nurture my young talent. Mr. Christian went above and beyond to facilitate learning. He spared time to tutor me and enthusiastically listened to any and all ideas I proposed. I recall when he surprised me with a thumb pick to help me practice Chet Atkins’ song, Classical Gas – I could not wait to go home and practice! On my middle school graduation day, Mr. Christian and my English teacher, Mr. Curtis Matthews, joined forces to surprise me at home with an alto saxophone. It is rather challenging to summarize what that moment means to me briefly. However, their generosity and selflessness created a transformative moment in my life that I will never forget. To this day, I consider Mr. Christian one of the best mentors and friends I ever had.

In 2018, Mr. Christian passed away. It was then that I reconnected with Dave Wish, founder of Little Kids Rock. I was thrilled to see that Dave was as vibrant and passionate as I remembered him as a student. I was presented with the opportunity of joining the Little Kids Rock as a Special Projects Assistant — a position where I would be able to strengthen the organization’s impact on our country’s youth. To be frank, I have never experienced a more fulfilling job over my years of professional experience. I am now a proud contributor to bringing the mission of Little Kids Rock to life. I am privileged to have a full circle view – witnessing how excited and involved teachers are in bringing music to their students.

This organization is much larger than when I started my first lesson in the eighth grade and I believe that to be a testament to the importance and impact of our work. It is beyond us – beyond the staff members, beyond the teachers, and beyond the students. It echoes for ages… and I am a living testament to that truth. Mr. Christian is no longer with us, but the passion he had for music and his students, and the joy he experienced by sharing with us lives on forever. That’s the thing about music: It changes the world, one interaction at a time, one note at a time, one brilliant mind at a time. The fruit of our labor lives on, even after we are long gone. That’s why I believe we can truly make the world a better place through music.

Clayton McIntyre and his band, Simple Man at Maplewoodstock, July 2019

Simple Man, Maplewoodstock, July 2019