The Hype: Save the Music. Poor,
needy, abused music. We must save it and the kids too. Lets
spend millions asking adults to take their cobwebbed clarinets
out of their closets and donate them to schools where every
kid is dying to play Go Tell Aunt Rhoady on the
The Gnarly Truth: Kids want to play music
they hear on the radio, and on instruments made after the
invention of electricity. Kids quit public school music classes
in an average of six weeks because of antiquated music on
The Bright Future: There is a modern music
program called Kids On Stage that is so good, so desirable
to kids and parents, that its turned the worst-performing
middle school in one rural Tennessee county into a school
with a waiting line of parents trying to get their kids enrolled.
Parents who, in some cases, are taking their kids out of private
school to get them into a public school. A
school so happening, kids want to book time there on the weekends.
The Lesson: When music programs are truly
relevant and motivating to kids, you dont need to Save
The Music. Music can save the school.
Welcome to Kids On Stage, in Leipers Fork Tennessee, where
the first thing you see is a wall of electric guitars donated
by Epiphone. Where a digital recording studio donated by Mackie
looks out on a stage with pro lighting and acoustic treatments,
and a Mackie SR408 console and six M1400
amps are in the front-of-house position.
Spend a day in the best middle-school music program in America
and youll understand the gear is the least important
thing getting turned on. Its the kids. Rick Wheeler,
KOS Director, gives a kid a chance to be somebody.
Turning the typical school music dorks cliche
on its head, Wheelers music kids Rule the
Cool in this school.
The goods news is, KOS success is spreading. KOS II,
in neighboring Maury County, is being built from the ground
up. Right there on the blueprints in the middle of a structure
labeled Arts Wing are the words Recording
Studio. As KOS summer program volunteer teacher (and
songwriting powerhouse) John Hiatt once remarked about Kids
On Stage, I wish the high school I went to was half
Us too, John.