By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
“In our own local research, time was the number-one impediment. Not money, but time,” Higgins says. “But when you have the commitment, you not only find the money, but you find the time within the school day.”
Bradley Kresde, executive director of Rock the Classroom, a nonprofit elementary school program listed in Arts for All’s database, said he encountered the same problem when he and RHINO Entertainment founder Richard Foos and Chrysalis Records CEO Adlai Wertman began their nonprofit in 2003.
“[We] would go to a school and say, ‘Hey, here’s a free music program,’?” says Kresde. “?‘We’ll bring in the Beatles, bring in Mozart.’ They’d say, ‘Gee, we’d love to have it, but we can’t make time. If we fall behind a week in our literacy curriculum, we could be fired.’?”
The answer for Kresde was to create classes that mix music with schools’ academic curricula. For example, Rock the Classroom artists will teach a unit on the Blues and its roots in slavery to a class studying the Civil War.
Singer Destani Wolf, who has recorded with the Pharcyde and the 88, performs with Bay Area Afro-Latin-hip-hop group AguaLibra and recently released her debut solo album, teaches fourth and fifth graders at three different schools through Rock the Classroom. She notes that the program allows her to keep a flexible schedule rarely found in other day jobs.
“That’s what the program wants, people who are out there doing it, making it happen,” she says. “It’s not just people who used to be out there performing. I think it comes across with the students because they can feel that they’re performing, too.”
Fifth-grade teacher Alberto Ramirez says just interacting with Wolf once a week has been a revelation for his 11-year-old students, most of whom are learning English as a second lanugage at Santa Monica Boulevard Community Charter School in East Hollywood.
“It goes beyond just music,” Ramirez says, turning to Wolf. “You don’t know this, but the kids have to write biographies of people that we admire. They’re writing biographies about you.”
“What the kids need to understand is that they can be this,” he says motioning to the now teary-eyed singer only 10 or so years older than Ramirez’s charges. “This is not just somebody they could never be.”
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