Inspiring a lifelong love and appreciation for music through modern band — this is the mission of the nonprofit Little Kids Rock. Parentology recently heard Director of Teaching & Learning of Little Kids Rock, Scott Burstein, speak about modern band at The NAMM Show. Excited to learn more, we caught up with Burstein to hear about how Little Kids Rock is bringing modern band to classrooms.
What Is Modern Band and Why Do Kids Need It
So what is modern band? Burstein explains, “It teaches kids to perform, improvise and compose using the popular styles they know and love, including rock, pop, Latin, hip-hop and other modern styles.”
Classes feature guitar, bass, keyboard, drums, vocals, technology and computers. One reason the modern band method of musical instruction appeals to kids is its focus on music they already listen to daily.
“By emphasizing performance and composition, students develop a musical voice and acquire musical skills at an accelerated pace,” Burstein says.
He adds that modern band isn’t a replacement of traditional formats. Instead, the method expands upon existing music programming like marching band, jazz band and chorus in an effort to make music more appealing and available to kids who may otherwise feel excluded by traditional music classes.
Since most modern music involves more in-depth technology than its traditional counterparts, one barrier some schools run into is the lack of existing technology in the classroom.
Burstein says this is becoming less of an issue with emerging technology being more common and affordable. “The vast majority of teens have smartphones, and some tech-savvy teachers are using these devices to create in the classroom.”
As for schools where iPads, Chromebooks, or smartphones aren’t readily available, there are other ways to engage. “Recording software, once prohibitively expensive, is now readily available for little to no cost,” Burstein says. “Any music classroom with a computer and a projector can utilize free music resource databases such as the Jam Zone, Google’s Chrome Music Lab, or NYU’s MusEd Lab.”
Modern Music Means Popular Music
One roadblock schools and administrators may face when looking to implement modern band into their curriculum is building in the component of popular music in genres like hip-hop.
Many administrators have apprehensions to teaching hip-hop in the classroom. Little Kids Rock’s methodology and approach to using these genres in the classroom show that hip-hop can be used as a creative community builder. Something especially important considering that nationally 80% of students in public schools aren’t being reached by traditional music education programs.
“When we have push-back on hip-hop’s integration,” Burstein says, “we reinforce the notion that we need to leverage the cultural capital of our students and the music they love in order to reach them and connect with them on a deeper level.”
Bringing Little Kids Rock to a School Near You
Interested in having your child’s school add modern band to their musical curriculum? Contact administrators or teachers within your district and direct them to the Little Kids Rock workshop application.