RockSTAR: Music Education With An Edge

02/09/2016 11:57 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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I started piano lessons when I was five years old. My grandmother was a professional musician and music teacher, and it was desperately hoped that I had inherited at least a little bit of her talent. Turns out, musical talent is a much more elusive gene than one might expect. I have never had a natural sense of rhythm, as anyone who's ever seen me dance can attest to, and even at the peak of my piano playing prowess, I absolutely had to have the music in front of me as I had no ability to memorize songs.

Here, over twenty years from my last piano lesson, I am lucky to play chopsticks, badly. So you can imagine my excitement when my son expressed interest in music. Finally, the musical talent that I know exists in our family will find an outlet.

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RockSTAR Music Education is affiliated with STAR after school enrichment programs here in Los Angeles. RockSTAR itself was started seven years ago and has become one of STAR's most popular programs. A response to budget cuts that slashed many public schools' music programs, RockSTAR is run after the school day, and teaches kids guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, and the microphone. Children as young as kindergarten are formed into bands and taught to follow rhythm, write original music, and perform.

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My son started as a keyboardist in KinderRock. I immediately had visions of a young Ray Manzarek in my head. He loved it so much during the school year that we enrolled him in RockSTAR summer camp, where he performed for a rapt audience in the auditorium at a local elementary school. He played about three notes; I could have burst from pride. Beyond the actual performance, he learned an appreciation for different types of music; he learned to work as a group, and how to collaborate with others. The RockSTAR teachers are some of the most enthusiastic, positive people I have ever met. I think even I, and my badly rendered chopsticks would have felt like a million bucks in their care.

Since then he has been a part of the after school RockSTAR music program as well as ensuing summer camps. He switched to drums and started listening to Metallica and Deep Purple. He walks around humming Smoke on the Water and drumming out rhythms on tabletops. He has performed at The Avalon, The Mint, The El Rey, and Wiltern in RockSTAR showcases. He gets up on stage in front of a crowded theatre and counts off the beat for the band. His band has been together for nearly two years now, which in rock and roll terms is pretty impressive.

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Music programs have been the sacrificial lamb in a budget war waged on Los Angeles public schools. RockSTAR is fighting back by putting instruments into kid's hands and teaching them the confidence to get up on stage and rock. Summer camp enrollment is open now. Go to http://www.starcamps.org/rockstar to check rates and locations. If your child's school doesn't currently offer the after school enrichment courses, raise some hell and demand it. Smash a guitar at the next local school board meeting, or write a strongly worded letter, whichever is your style.

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RockSTAR teaches kindergarteners through high schoolers how to play guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, compose their own songs, and perform classic hits working together as a rock 'n' roll band. You can reach them at rockstar@starinc.org
(310 ) 678-7283 or on the web: http://www.rockstarmusiceducation.org/

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