Partnership brings music to afterschool

Little Kids Rock brings music back to schools

As schools face increasing pressure to improve student achievement and budget cuts that leave little funding for instruction outside of the core curriculum, programs such as music instruction are often edged out of the school day. Afterschool programs can help fill this gap, allowing students to explore music and the arts.

Little Kids Rock: California, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, Texas, Washington, D.C.

The Challenge
Finding people who can teach music can present a challenge. Some programs may opt to hire private music teachers, but that is often prohibitively expensive. Other programs recruit experienced musicians to volunteer their time, but volunteers can be inconsistent, making it difficult to rely on them. Plus, experienced musicians and private music instructors may have the ability to teach a student how to play an instrument, but they often lack the experience and skill to manage an entire classroom.

The Partnership Solution
Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit organization that provides free music lessons to elementary and middle school youth in public schools, recruits full-time classroom teachers and music teachers to volunteer their time to provide music classes in classrooms and afterschool programs. Music mentors, as they are called, are recruited through the Little Kids Rock website and through the school districts, which distribute fliers to district teachers to let them know about the opportunity. In order to be a music mentor, teachers must be employed by the district in which they will be teaching the Little Kids Rock classes and must be able to play the instrument that they will be teaching with some proficiency.

Music mentors already have classroom management and music skills. Little Kids Rock provides a teaching pedagogy, training and support, curriculum and, thanks to support from the music industry, free instruments for their students. In addition to a two-day intensive training session, music mentors are given teachers' manuals with lesson plans, CDs with instructional tracks, computer software and support to record students' work at the end of the year.

The rewards of teaching Little Kids Rock classes are primarily non-monetary. Although some districts may offer a stipend or hourly wage for teaching Little Kids Rock classes, music mentors are not paid by Little Kids Rock for their time. Music mentors gain valuable experience teaching music and learn new ways to keep learning compelling and engaging.

School districts benefit from having classroom and music teachers teaching the Little Kids Rock classes. Because the teachers are employees of the district, they have already been screened, have passed background clearance checks, and are covered under the district's liability insurance policies.

Since 1996, Little Kids Rock has recruited and trained hundreds of classroom and music teachers to be music mentors. As a result, thousands of youth in public elementary, middle and high schools have received free music lessons, and school districts in more than 18 cities across the country have been able to bring music back to the schools. Currently, about 300 Little Kids Rock music mentors have been trained to provide free music lessons to more than 7,000 youth in six states.

Applying Little Kids Rock's Success at Your Program

  • Don't assume teachers won't volunteer their time: Little Kids Rock has had great success recruiting passionate and dedicated teachers.
  • Let each partner do what he or she does best. Teachers have the teaching and classroom management expertise, and Little Kids Rock has the pedagogy and tested curriculum to teach music.
  • Seek partners who can bring "extras" to your program, such as proven program models, material resources and engaging curriculum.

About Little Kids Rock
Little Kids Rock provides instruments and free music lessons on guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and voice to elementary, middle and high school youth in public schools. Students are also taught how to compose, perform and record their own music. Since its beginnings in San Francisco, Little Kids Rock has started programs in New York, New Jersey, Tennessee, Louisiana, Georgia, and California, and has programs pending in Texas, Washington, D.C., and Arkansas.

For another approach to bringing skilled volunteers into afterschool, check out Experience Corps. Experience Corps recruits adults over the age of 55 to volunteer their time to provide mentoring and tutoring to elementary and middle school students who are struggling to read both in classrooms and out-of-school time settings. You can learn more about Experience Corps.