Something remarkable happened to me. That something was Rock and Roll. When it came in to my life, everything changed. I woke up, emotionally, intellectually, and socially.
Suddenly the world wasn’t just something I watched through the window of the family car.
The world was a place to enter, a place in which to do something, to make changes, and to belong to a diverse community that believed in change.
This project, TeachRock, is my effort to share Rock and Roll’s history with middle school and high school students across the country, to give something back for all I’ve been given. I believe that students will recognize, in the music and in the communities that grew up around the music, the possibility that there’s something in it for them, right now. The more students of today know about where this music came from and how it changed the world, the more certainly they’ll be able to say,
“Music still has that power — and the best is yet to come.”
In the United States today, arts funding is being cut on a regular basis. The unacceptable pittance we now give to the arts suggests that we have forgotten what we get from the arts.
To me, it seems the arts have become a luxury, not a necessity. How did we get so far off track? Why are we failing to nourish the student mind in the ways that have proven successful for centuries?
What TeachRock offers is a fun, inspiring way into the arts, and from the arts into the core disciplines. It aims to unlock a world of possibility. In the Rock and Roll story we see young people empowered and discovering their own voices, organic communities emerging around the music, people looking past their racial and cultural differences. I recently read a report done for the Institute for the Study of the Americas, which showed that teenagers today are as racially segregated as they were in the 1950’s.
Shouldn’t we be investigating the historical moments and the cultural arenas in which racial mixing happened organically, with deep respect? Shouldn’t it be imperative that we learn from such history? Rock and Roll played an essential part in breaking down the emotional barriers of the pre-Civil Rights era. Too few young people know this story. And it’s not just a history, not just the “good old days”—it ’s a model for what can happen, right now, in their world. Music engages the mind and unlocks the emotions, but music culture also reveals social alternatives.
I was another teenager in New Jersey, uninspired, a little isolated, and not at all sure what I wanted to do with myself... if anything. At first, Rock and Roll seemed like something really good that lived on 45rpm records. But then it kept getting better. Rock and Roll jump-started my life and connected me to the bigger changes happening around me. It was the best deal I’ve ever been offered. Students today deserve the same chance. But this won’t happen unless they are first introduced to the arts. TeachRock is one such introduction. Bring everyone you can.