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Raitt, Waits, Buffalo jam with S.F. schoolkids

on October 23, 2003 No comments
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Delfin Vigil – Sunday, March 20, 2005

Kids who are in the Little Kids Rock program entertain and are entertained by Bonnie Raitt, Tom Waits, Norton Buffalo, Jason Newsted and Justin Willacy on October 21, 2003 at the Spring Valley Elementary School in downtown San Francisco . © David Paul Morris /AP Photo
Kids who are in the Little Kids Rock program entertain and are entertained by Bonnie Raitt, Tom Waits, Norton Buffalo, Jason Newsted and Justin Willacy on October 21, 2003 at the Spring Valley Elementary School in downtown San Francisco . © David Paul Morris /AP Photo

Some day the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame may need to add a new wing – – for the Redwood City sound.

It all started in 1996, when David Wish, a frustrated second-grade teacher at Hawes Elementary School in Redwood City, decided to teach schoolchildren how to play music.

What began as a weekly after-school guitar class for his second-graders quickly expanded to sessions every day. Soon it seemed nearly every kid in the school wanted to pick up an instrument.

Nearly 10 years later, Wish is the director of Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit organization that brings free music lessons and instruments to more than 4,000 students in low-income areas in four states. By next year, Little Kids Rock hopes to release a CD of songs written by students and recorded and performed by celebrity musicians such as Tom Waits, Norton Buffalo and members of Metallica, all of whom have appeared at schools and jammed with the kids.

Wish, who now lives in New Jersey, is having a Bay Area homecoming party for Little Kids Rock and a celebration of Music in Our Schools Month on Wednesday at the Mighty club in San Francisco, headlined by ’70s soap star- turned-rocker Rick Springfield.

Thanks to stars like Springfield, who donate their time and money, Little Kids Rock expects to double the number of participating students by next year.

“Back in Redwood City in 1996, we maxed out on instruments for the kids pretty quickly,” says Wish, a jazz guitarist. “Then Carlos Santana gave us a $5,000 Milagro grant. It seemed like all the money in the world, and I thought we’d never have to buy guitars again.”

Wish has since expanded the program to teaching drums, bass and keyboards. The reasons, he says, are obvious.

“If you took a Martian from outer space and had him listen to the radio and asked him what kind of music children are learning to play in schools, he’d tell you bass, keyboards, drums and guitar, right? But he’d be wrong. So where are all these kids who grow up to play that kind of music getting their musical education?”

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Wish says he uses the internationally known Suzuki Method, which he blends with the Rolling Stones and Dr. Seuss.

“The Suzuki Method is a set of methodologies that says anyone and everyone can play music if taught properly — by ear, not by reading,” Wish says. “Suzuki says that classical music is not the domain of the gifted. Little Kids Rock does the same thing, but is open to pop music — punk, heavy metal, folk, whatever. It’s still rock ‘n’ roll to me.”

Rather than picking up chords from their older siblings or copying riffs from the dude at the guitar shop, kids ought to be learning popular music in school, Wish says.

“California is ranked last for access to arts education,” he says. “Think about that. You’re talking states like … well, let’s just say states with far fewer resources trounce California in musical education.”

Besides the obvious budget cuts, Wish believes that a big reason kids don’t learn music in school is because they associate “educational” music — classical and marching — as being kind of boring.

“I believe it’s better to let them get to the good stuff first, as opposed to being confined to 17 years of classical piano,” Wish says.

So when students say they want to learn how to play Shaggy, Ricky Martin or Britney Spears, Wish makes a trip to iTunes and invariably comes back with just three necessary chords.

“Take Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony,” Wish says, explaining his argument against the few who frown upon his approach. “It’s two chords: D and A. Do you realize how many songs are structured around only D and A? When you teach a kid how to play a Selena song that is D and A, you’re also teaching them to play Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. You’re teaching them to play. Period.”


LITTLE KIDS ROCK: The next benefit, starring Rick Springfield, takes place from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Mighty, 119 Utah St., San Francisco. 100. (973) 746-8248, www.littlekidsrock.org.

Source: © Copyright SFGate Info:
Little Kids Rock
Little Kids Rock YouTube Channel
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