As a kid, I loved music and wanted to find an outlet to express myself. I wanted to play the songs that moved me that I heard on the radio. For fourth and fifth graders in East Providence pubic schools who feel the same way, East Providence Kids Rock Chorus gives them the chance to rock out and perform the pop songs they love.
Where was this program when I was a kid? Like so many, I would have thrived in Rock Chorus. Its co-founder, Taylor Temple, feels the same way.
“Approximately six years ago, Nick Hurd [and] decided to combine our elementary chorus concerts,” Taylor says. “Nick and I were both teaching at elementary schools in East Providence. Instead of having four separate concerts, it made sense to combine forces. We have similar musical backgrounds and philosophies, and around this time we both happened to be changing our approach to teaching chorus. We ditched the old choral repertoire and the rigid nature of traditional performances [and] we introduced pop music, from the Beatles and Michael Jackson, to Pharrell Williams and Lorde. We allowed the students to dance and have fun, and the results started speaking for themselves.”
Once a week, East Providence elementary school students are taken through the basics in music class, with lessons in singing, instruments, theory and performance. The innovation and success of the program is attracting attention beyond the East Providence school district, too. “Last year, we were approached by the Benny’s corporation and were featured in two commercials. They had stumbled onto one of our Facebook videos and had us perform their now-famous jingle.”
“We were also contacted by two music education professors from Oregon State University and Ithaca University. They found our chorus to be unique in the music education world and have been conducting a research study on us since early last year. The study is hopefully going to be featured at the National Music Education Conference [next] summer. And this past summer, our video of The Grateful Dead’s ‘Ripple’ went semi-viral garnering over 50,000 views in a weekend.”
Learning about music in a classroom is certainly valuable – a golden opportunity for the students – but nothing synthesizes theory like the experience of performing live. The program trains them throughout the year with a few smaller gigs along the way, culminating in a performance at the end of the school year.
“We try to pick songs that are lyrically appropriate. For the past few years, we have packed the high school auditorium. I’d argue that we have one of the highest attended events every year.” Clearly, the results are speaking for themselves.