Little Kids Rock:
Teaching You The Four R's: Readin', Ritin', Rithmetic, Rock! By
Imagine you are a
musician. Now imagine you are an educator. Now imagine that you live in a country
where music education in public schools has gone from bad to worse in just a few
years. But wait . . . you don't have to imagine that. If you live in the U.S.
this is the truth. A sorry state of affairs, really! So, what do you do? Well,
if you are Dave Wish you start your own music program, you name it Little Kids
Rock, and off you go!
It all started
back in 1996 with Dave watching a Django Reinhardt video. The French gypsy guitar
legend inspired numerous kids to pick up the guitar and start playing and the
skill that these self-taught youngsters displayed fascinated Dave (it is amazing
what children can do with the right motivation.) So, Dave, teaching 2nd grade
in San Francisco's Bay Area during the day and playing jazz at night, called
some of his musician friends to see if they would donate some of their old instruments
that they were not using so he can give them to the kids at this school. And
that was the birth of Little Kids Rock.
I bet you are thinking about students staying around after school, sitting in
circles singing "Polly Wolly Doodle" and "The Itsy Bitsy Spider"
aren't you? Well, at least that's what was happening in the beginning when the
school finally hired a part-time musicteacher. But Dave knew that kids nowadays
are exposed to a variety of media and have the capacity to absorb more complex
material. "They could sing popular songs by heart . . . [and] pick up on
what their older brothers and sisters [were] listening to. They became interested
in a variety of genres that [weren't] represented in the school program,"
says Dave. "The songs being taught in the classroom weren't connecting
on that level. I knew we were missing something."
So Dave started teaching kids to not only play their favorite songs but also
to write and perform their own compositions. And he did not do it the conventional
way. He just let them do it. "You learn by doing," says Dave. "It's
more motivational that way. It's more inspirational to make music than to learn
about notes." His recipe for Little Kids Rock is "Suzuki [after the
famed Japanese violinist/teacher who created a similar method in the 50s] meets
the Rolling Stones meets Dr. Seuss all in a blender."
did not stop there. With the assistance of Alfred Publishing and NAMM (International
Music Products Association), and the guiding light of honorary board members
and strong supporters Bonnie Raitt, B.B. King, Carlos Santana, Manuel Barrueco,
String Cheese Incident, Jim Campilongo, and the late John Lee Hooker, as well
as other mentors/volunteers that participate in the program, he also helped
the kids record their songs and released them on CD (actually three of them
so far, which are available for purchase - hint, hint - on www.littlekidsrock.org).
In Los Angeles,
Little Kids Rock has trained music mentors at Third Street Elementary School
through their semi-annual workshops in California. "Our hope is to get
more interest in the LA area so we can bring the free gift of music education
to children in public schools all over Southern California," says Dave.
"Los Angeles and the surrounding area is an important place for Little
Kids Rock. L.A. is the heart of the entertainment industry and a natural and
necessary focus for our program."
Little Kids Rock is definitely making a difference it still remains an after-school
program but Dave hopes that will eventually change. "When people hear the
music these kids are creating, they are sincerely impressed with the product,"
he says. "My goal is that Little Kids Rock will stem the tide of budget
cutbacks and help reestablish music education in the schools, and that our approach
will be widely adopted."
hope that your goal becomes reality. Thanks for what you do for our kids Dave.