Flowery’s ‘Little Kids Rock’
ALONDRA MARTINEZ, 10, practices to open for Shelby Lynne during a Little Kids Rock benefit show on May 6
As more and more funding gets cut from California’s public schools, art instruction is often first on the chopping block. In turn, a new model of education is emerging in which nonprofit organizations fill the gaps that schools can no longer afford to cover.
Headquartered in New York City, Little Kids Rock, whose board of directors includes all-stars such as Bonnie Raitt, Paul Simon and BB King, has helped bring music education to 200,000 students in 1,000 schools in 25 cities, including Sonoma at El Verano Elementary School, Flowery Elementary School, Sassarini Elementary School and Prestwood Elementary School.
On Sunday, May 6, a group of third-grade students from Flowery are set to perform with an all-star lineup of musicians before country music star Shelby Lynne takes the stage at George’s Nightclub in San Rafael. The evening is a benefit for Little Kids Rock, organized by Sonoma resident and music lover Nancy Granger.
“I’m just such a firm believer that children need music in every facet of their lives,” Granger said.
In addition to the music, Granger has arranged a silent auction of music memorabilia. It includes Fender guitars signed by Carlos Santana, Mark Knopfler, the Doobie Brothers and Chrissie Hynde; as well as a guitar painted by iconic rock poster artist Stanley Mouse and original artwork from Grace Slick, vocalist for Jefferson Airplane.
In addition to raising funds, the night offers students a chance in the limelight, backed up by some of the area’s most notable musicians. Prairie Prince, best known as a founding member of Journey, will be on drums. Bobby Vega, former member of Sly and the Family Stone, will play bass. Chris Rossbach of D’Amphibians and the Zigaboo Modeliste Aahkesstra is on guitar along with Marin County rocker Chris Von Sneidern. Darby Gould, singer for Jefferson Starship – The Next Generation, will provide vocals.
“I think it will be very inspiring for them,” said Greg Campbell, teacher of the third-graders who will perform May 6. He is a certified Little Kids Rock instructor.
Campbell explained that fulltime public school teachers can sign up for training from Little Kids Rock, where they learn music philosophy and how to teach it. The organization provides the school with instruments ranging from drum kits to guitars, which students are allowed to take home for practice. Flowery received 40 guitars thanks to the program. Little Kids Rock instructors volunteer their time to teach children music, which Campbell said is worthwhile because of the benefit to the youth.
“A lot of people say music helps kids in school,” he said, adding that many Flowery students cannot afford music lessons or instruments. “We get to offer 40 kids free music classes every week. It’s great.”
At Flowery, teachers in third, fourth and fifth grade offer music classes through Little Kids Rock, allowing students to develop their skills over the years. Students are taught guitar, as well as singing, and there is generally a waiting list of students eager to participate. In fifth grade, they can decide if they want to join the band or the chorus. Generally, the year ends with a concert for parents and classmates, not opening for the likes of Shelby Lynne.
Lynne is a longtime supporter of Little Kids Rock and Granger said the country superstar was eager to do her part for the children. Granger, who was active in London’s music scene for decades, said she’s heard countless stories from professional musicians about how music classes in schools kept them out of trouble, an opportunity they’re happy to pass on to the next generation.
“You save one kid from a gang, you encourage one kid to go to college, what more can you do?” she said.
The doors will open at 5 p.m. on May 6, followed by the auction from 6 to 7 p.m. At 7 p.m., the Little Kids Rock band, backed by the professional musicians, will perform. Lynne is set to take the stage at 9 p.m. Tickets are $65 for VIP access, $55 for reserved seating and $45 for general admission, and are available at www.georgesnightclub.com. George’s Nightclub is at 842 4th St., San Rafael.
To find out more about Little Kids Rock, visit littlekidsrock.org.