( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) The Organization Seeks To Provide Free Musical Instruments and Lessons to Over a Million Students Throughout the Country
ENSPIRE Contributor: Anastasia Hanna
National non-profit Little Kids Rock featured a diverse, multi-genre lineup of singers, songwriters, and musical talent for their annual benefit that celebrated the transformational power of music education on Wednesday, April 14th at 8:00 p.m. ET followed by an after-party (“doors” opened at 7:00 p.m. ET).
Presented by Hot Topic Foundation, the event featured musical performances, an online auction, speeches, and testimonials to celebrate the organization’s mission of bringing free musical instruments and lessons to over a million students across the country while ensuring that musical support was available when students returned to school. Usually held in person in New York City, the evening was livestreamed and emceed by music artist T-Boz of TLC and DJ Skee of Dash Radio.
Little Kids Rock Annual Benefit co-chairs included Richard Foos (Founder, Rhino Records and Shout! Factory), Crag Kallman (CEO, Atlantic Records), Nadine Levitt (Founder & CEO, Wurrly), and Stefani Scamardo (Founder, Hard Head Management).
Little Kids Rock began as an informal effort by former schoolteacher Dave Wish to give his San Francisco Bay Area second grade students a music enrichment program. Borrowing from friends and scouring area flea markets for instruments, he began offering free after-school guitar classes. The curriculum Wish developed immediately captured each student’s interest because it had them playing the types of music they enjoyed listening to and enabled them to improvise and compose freely around a basic network of ideas and skills within minutes of picking up the instrument.
“We are humbled that so many incredible members of the artistic and business communities are coming together via this event to support our mission to bring more music to more kids,” says Little Kids Rock Founder & CEO Dave Wish. “This school year we were inspired to see our teachers use music to keep their students emotionally close, even when they had to be apart. Music has been and will always be one of humanity’s emotional first responders.”
Little Kids Rock uses genres including rock, pop, Latin, and rap to empower teachers across the country to build music programs as diverse as the students they serve. Students see themselves reflected in the curriculum, which strengthens their connection to their school, their peers, and their community. The organization also donates necessary instruments and curriculum, which meet a key need of many school music programs. While the world of music expands through innovation, Little Kids Rock guarantees that music education does as well.
“Early music education is very important for the young,” says Little Kids Rock National Board Member and longtime bandleader for Public Enemy, Brian Hardgroove. “Not only is it a direct path to critical thinking; I believe it can also help a young person better understand the past that has led to their present. Music has always inspired and brought us together, and music will continue to inspire and bring us together.”
More than 550,000 kids currently participate in Little Kids Rock programs nationwide. When the pandemic hit and schools began closing, the organization moved its professional development workshops online and began creating new curricular resources focused on distance and digital learning. They pursued partnerships that provided free supplies such as JBL headphones to thousands of students in their homes and supported music teachers with online training, technology, and the means to ensure their students did not miss a beat in their music education, whether they are learning virtually or in-person.
The “Little Kids Rock Annual Benefit” has convened many musical supporters who have spoken or performed at past events, including Billie Joe Armstrong, Jon Batiste, Harry Connick Jr., Alice Cooper, Elvis Costello, Lady Gaga, Warren Haynes, Christone “KINGFISH” Ingram, Joan Jett, Vance Joy, Wiz Khalifa, Lake Street Dive, Phil Lesh, David Letterman, Kenny Loggins, Darlene Love, Steve Miller, Keb’ Mo’, Tracy Morgan, Graham Nash, Bonnie Raitt, Smokey Robinson, Paul Shaffer, Bruce Springsteen, Usher, Steven Van, Bernie Williams, Jesse Colin Young, and many others.
Event sponsors include Hot Topic Foundation, Condé Nast, The Sessions, Shout! Factory, Niagara Cares, Greg & Carolyn Hall, Atlantic, Chris & Robin Donohoe, Verifi Media, Manatt, Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, Universal Music Group, Airspeed, Carter Gowrie, Brad & Kerry Peterson, April Jordan & Matthew Wolfe, Scott & Ida Burton, Wurrly, Bob & Nancy Flaum, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Seminole, Hard Rock, Lightspeed Financial Services Group, Betty & Greg Murphy, Bill & Stephanie Mellin, Karen Chakmakian, Nick & Sue Carter, Anmarie & Jim Galowski, Chris & Jennifer Skarakis, Boomy, Karen & Dick Hoffman, AWS, Provident Financial Management, and Cherre.