What do you remember about music class when you were in school?
Was it your zany music teacher with the Beethoven haircut conducting Hot Cross Buns for 30 first graders with recorders? Was it the fear of hitting a wrong note in a Tchaikovsky violin concerto and being yelled at by a mean band director? Do you recall the hours of tuba practice every time you slip a disc in your lower back?
And all the while, while you waited for the bell to ring, you dreamed of rushing home to practice power chords and play the latest Van Halen song on your electric guitar.
The reality is that many schools do not even have it in their budget to retain their music programs and for those that do, there is not much room to innovate, modernize or expand on the curriculum.
An elementary school teacher from a disadvantaged district in the San Francisco Bay Area recognized this alarming trend and began giving free guitar lessons to his second grade students, most of whom came from low-income neighborhoods. His program was called “Little Kids Rock” and those kids sure did ROCK!
Ten years and 200,000+ students later, Little Kids Rock has become the largest, nonprofit instrumental music program in the US public schools, serving underprivileged children in 25 cities, including more than 6,500 kids in the Chicago Public Schools.
This September, the charity will throw a 10th anniversary “Rock Their World Celebration” at Facebook Headquarters in Menlo Park, CA – just a few miles from the genesis of Little Kids Rock – but this time, these little kids will jam with some big time musicians!
“The Red Rocker” Sammy Hagar will join his Chickenfoot bandmate, Joe Satriani, and The Black Eyed Peas’ Taboo at a music-filled evening that will celebrate a decade of service to America’s youth and raise funds to give the gift of music to thousands of additional children.
“I know music can really change people’s lives, keep them off the streets and keep you out of trouble. It did that for me,” says Hagar, whose Hagar Family Foundation donates to Little Kids Rock.
Hagar got involved with Little Kids Rock after Satriani, a longtime supporter of the program, began visiting schools and giving master classes. Imagine learning your first chords from a guitar legend!
“Little Kids Rock gives kids a fantastic opportunity to discover their talents, and of course they are enriching the whole school atmosphere,” Satriani said after visiting a classroom in San Francisco. “The whole idea of bringing free instruments and organizing music instruction for schools that wouldn’t otherwise afford it is just the perfect solution to provide music and art to kids so that the real business of life can blossom and continue.”
Taboo got involved with Little Kids Rock more than a year ago when he surprised students at their end-of-year concert by hopping on stage with them to perform the Black Eyed Peas hit, I Gotta Feelin’. Performing a Black Eyed Peas song on donated rock instruments during their school concert was a rush for these students. Adding a mega-star to the mix made it surreal!
The kids inspired Taboo so much that he brought them to a recording studio to record an original song with him. “I am all about the youth. I am all about the next big thing,” says Taboo. “Our kids are the next big thing and I will do anything I can do to support them. That’s why I support Little Kids Rock.”
While these major rock stars provide the star power that will make Little Kids Rock’s 10th anniversary exciting, the most memorable part of the evening will be when they get on stage and perform with local students.
The event is celebratory, but marks the beginning of a new era for Little Kids Rock, whose program will expand throughout the Chicago Public Schools in the coming years. As budget cuts eliminate music programs from public schools, this nonprofit will make sure that little kids ROCK until the bell rings… and sometimes, even longer!