The music has stopped for too many public school children, particularly those on the lower end of the economic scale. And that’s just not acceptable for people like David Wish.
As an elementary school teacher in 1996, Wish became frustrated with the lack of funding for music education at his school, so he began informally offering an after-school guitar class to students. His efforts have mushroomed into a nationally recognized not-for-profit organization called Little Kids Rock with Honorary Board Members like musicians Bonnie Raitt, Paul Simon, BB King and Les Paul.
“I had a guitar as a kid because my parents and grandparents gave me one, and I was able to be in a school orchestra and take piano lessons,” Raitt says. “But, these days, I don’t think it’s an option for kids—and certainly not in the inner city. We hope to offer access to music for people who would otherwise not have access to it.”
With innovative teaching methods and free musical instruments, Little Kids Rock provides students opportunities to express themselves through music and thereby build creativity, confidence and self-esteem. These qualities in turn affect academic performance and increase the probability that students will channel their energy constructively rather than destructively.
“I believe that music has shown me a new way of life,” a 14-year-old in the program says. “I have to be honest. Before I started producing music and writing songs, I was depressed. By being able to put emotions into my lyrics, I’ve been able to express myself in new ways. Music is like the key to the soul; it means everything to me. Everybody should have music in their lives.”
Music is not the only piece missing from the lives of many people, and economics are but one brick in the wall that blocks them from realizing their potential. Cultural, racial, social, linguistic and political issues also help form that wall, and it seems insurmountable for those on the wrong side. It can also seem overwhelming for those who want to do something to knock it down.
David Wish didn’t let the size of the wall stop him. He simply knocked out the brick he knew he could and opened the door for now thousands of children to have opportunities they otherwise would not have had.
God often asks us not to tear down entire walls by ourselves but instead to remove the bricks we can. When we do, other people can peer through the hole and catch a glimpse of what they can become.
Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.