David Wish: Music Education Innovator

Since 2002, David Wish’s organization Little Kids Rock has reached more than 200,000 public school kids who otherwise would not have received music education.
By Christian Williams
November/December 2012

Since 2002, David Wish’s organization Little Kids Rock has reached more than 200,000 public school kids who otherwise would not have received music education.
Photo Courtesy Little Kids Rock


Content Tools

Related Content

Skateboarding and the American Dream

Skateboarders in Fresno County skate the pools of foreclosed homes and offer a running commentary on...

A Conversation with David Wish

A conversation with 2012 Utne Visionary David Wish, founder and executive director of Little Kids Ro...

Just Keep Truckin'

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution hits the road in trucks designed to bring his back-to-basics food-pre...

The Art and Sound of Obsolescence

Give an artist an ancient crop-harvesting machine and he'll create evocative sculptures that questio...

As public school districts across the country try to stretch insufficient funding as far as possible, the sad reality is that valuable programs such as arts and music will be sacrificed. But the story doesn’t have to end there, at least not if people like David Wish are around. 

Ten years ago, Wish was a first-grade teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. Upset that his school didn’t offer music education, he decided to do something about it. “I took matters into my own hands and started giving free classes after school for my class,” said Wish. “I just wanted to bring music into the lives of 30 first graders.” Soon, more kids wanted to take the lessons, and eventually, Wish needed to enlist the help of fellow teachers just to keep up with the demand. “I could see the impact immediately in the way the kids carried themselves, the ways that they expressed themselves, and the ways they connected to school,” said Wish. “That’s what motivated me.”

Those first classes inspired Wish to expand his idea even further, and the result was a grassroots organization called Little Kids Rock, which offers free lesson plans and instruments to schools with low income students. Ten years in, more than 1,300 public school teachers have used the program in their schools, reaching more than 200,000 kids who otherwise would not have received music education.

The key to Little Kids Rock’s success is its approach. “We teach kids to play the music that interests them, and we approach it non-notationally, at least at first,” said Wish. “When you teach people to play by reading music, it is a mathematical approach. In math, there is usually one right answer and an infinite number of wrong answers. However, when you teach music as a language, there are many, many right answers, and making music becomes easier and less intimidating.”

And the key to the program’s longevity has been the gracious support of celebrity sponsors including music icons Bonnie Raitt, Paul Simon, Slash, B.B. King, Ziggy Marley, and many others. “Upon hearing our kids, people wanted to get involved,” said Wish. “I know that sounds so simple, but it’s true. Once artists come out to see our kids, once they got to see the joy in their faces first hand, and once they get to play with them and make music, they tell their other musician friends. Our artist outreach is all word of mouth.”








Post a comment below.

 








Pay Now & Save $5!
First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $31.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!