The cynical could paraphrase Mark Twain and say that everybody talks about the lack of music in our schools, but nobody does anything about it. But David Wish did–he founded a national organization called Little Kids Rock. The 501(3)(c) nonprofit has become the “talk of the town,” visiting economically disadvantaged communities and bestowing upon its children hundreds of guitars. Most of these children wouldn’t have a chance to strum and pluck guitars without the organization’s goodwill.
When Wish began teaching at a public school in 1992, he, like many of his fellow public school teachers, was shocked at how little music was being taught. “They did hire a guy to come in for half an hour once a week,” David sighs. “But he was focused on nursery rhymes. I knew the students’ preference was for pop music, and their pop sensibilities were being left out in the cold.”
Wish felt that there was something he could do: teach children the kinds of music they liked to listen to. “I took it upon myself to start offering a guitar class. I begged and borrowed instruments from friends to launch the first class.” Soon David found himself working two full-time jobs: teaching and running a volunteer guitar program.What began as a single teacher’s effort to bring music instruction to a few dozen students has since catapulted into a national nonprofit organization that provides free music classes and musical instruments to thousands of kids in our public schools.
However, Little Kids Rock does more than just teach kids how to play. Their innovative approach to music education focuses on composition and performance. Students enrolled in their programs write their own songs, and each year they record a CD featuring these kid-generated gems.
The organization is also supported by a host of musical luminaries such as Honorary Board Members Bonnie Raitt, BB King, Paul Simon and Les Paul as well as friends Bob Weir, Brad Delson (Linkin Park),Tom Waits, Liberty DeVitto (Billy Joel), Jason Newsted (Metallica) and others. A number of their supporters recently got together for a benefit concert to support the program in New York City.
“The support of artists help us raise funds and awareness for the program,” adds David. “These artists really understand the importance of giving back.”
Little Kids Rock will be expanding its services in the New York Public Schools this fall. If you’re interested in showing your support as a “rocker,” “roller,” “performer” or more, visit http://www.littlekidsrock.org/ for more information on the program and learn how to get involved.