On March 21 at 9 a.m. at New York's Lower Manhattan Community Middle School, the air buzzed with anticipation. The news? Rock music is stepping up to join jazz in the classroom. Under the name of Amp Up NYC, nonprofit Little Kids Rock has teamed up with Berklee College of Music and the New York Department of Education to bring rock music education to 60,000 NYC students. Little Kids Rock is dedicated to transforming children's lives by restoring and revitalizing music education in disadvantaged public schools. This is the largest single private investment in public school music in the country's history.
The morning opened with a performance by the Lower Manhattan Modern Band Ensemble. The kids played “I Love Rock and Roll” and were clearly enjoying themselves. Teacher Jude Traxler watched from the audience, giving signals and encouragement. After the first performance, a number of speakers took the stage, including David Wish, founder of Little Kids Rock. “I feel today is literally a watershed moment for music education. We have heard all the impassioned calls for its preservation. We can do more than that, and expand it” said Wish. He urged the audience that music does not stand still, and music education can not stand still either. Drummer Steve Jordan spoke about his days growing up in his native New York City and the importance of music in the development of character. “Whatever they pursue, music will give them a better foundation to do that” said Roger Brown, president of Berklee.
Rounding out the show was the MS 129 Modern Band class. The joy on the faces of the children was more than enough to sell a skeptic on the value of modern band education, but the real kicker was the boy singing lead. He not only sang with the confidence of an adult, but danced down the aisle, engaging the audience.
Included in this venture are Berklee's PULSE, a music educational resource for pre-university students and teachers and electric guitars from Taylor Guitars. Included in PULSE are media, sheet music, instruction on theory, and teacher resources for lesson plans. Little Kids Rock will be partnering with the NYC Board of Ed to train teachers in their modern band curriculum. Future plans include joint ventures in cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago and others.