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    A Conversation with David Wish

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    <br />
    <p>
    <em>David Wish is the founder and executive director of Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit organization that provides music education for students in disadvantaged public schools. Since 2002, Little Kids Rock has provided meaningful music education to more than 200,000 students nationwide thanks to the support of teachers, volunteers, and music icons such as B.B. King and Paul Simon. <a target=”_blank” title=”David Wish is a 2012 Utne Visionary” href=”http://www.utne.com/arts/david-wish-zm0z12ndzlin.aspx”>David Wish is a 2012 Utne Visionary</a>; below is our email interview with Wish from September 2012.  </em>
    </p>
    <p>
    <em>Christian Williams: Where were you teaching when you decided to start the after-school lessons
    and develop the program? </em>
    <br />
    <em>David Wish: </em>I was a first-grade teacher in the San Francisco
    Bay Area and was very upset that my students were not receiving music education.
    So I took matters into my own hands and started giving free classes after school
    for my class. More and more kids wanted to get in on the fun so I kept offering
    more and more classes. It got to the point where I had to start turning kids
    away which broke my heart. So that’s when I started reaching out to other
    teachers I knew to enlist their help. Not only did I no longer need to turn kids
    away, I found their were tons of teachers who wanted to help.<br />
    <br />
    <em>CW: Little
    Kids Rock has been around for 10 years now. Did you expect this kind of
    longevity and success when you started?</em>
    <br />
    <em>DW: </em>Time flies when you are having
    fun! I really can’t believe that ten years have passed. I have never pursued
    success; I have pursued fulfillment. It brings me such joy and satisfaction to
    watch a young person’s life transformed by music. That’s where I still keep my
    focus: reaching kids and making a difference in their lives. That’s something we
    can <u>all</u> do every day of our lives: do something for other people.
    I don’t expect success, I expect impact. <br />
    <br />
    <em>CW: What were your initial
    goals or measures for success in the beginning?</em>
    <br />
    <em>DW:</em> When I first started, I
    just wanted to bring music into the lives of thirty first graders. That seemed a big
    enough goal. Then my goal became reaching another group of thirty, then another. I
    could see the impact immediately in the way the kids carried themselves, the
    ways that they expressed themselves and the ways that they connected to school.
    That’s what motivated me. Today, in year 10, over 1,300 public school teachers
    have decided that they feel the same way and have brought Little Kids Rock
    programming to over 200,000 kids. <br />
    <br />
    <em>CW: What has surprised you most about
    the program and how it’s been received by kids and teachers alike? </em>
    <br />
    <em>DW: </em>What
    has surprised me the most is watching the impact that our teaching methodology
    and training has on the teachers. I have seen teachers weeping during our
    trainings because they themselves had internalized negative messages about their
    own creativity. Our pedagogy validates and elevates them. They say things like,
    “This has changed me entire view of myself as a creative person,” or “I learned
    more from two days of training here than I did in all my years at the
    conservatory.” That’s powerful stuff</p>
    <p>
    <em>CW: Your approach to teaching
    music differs from the traditional approach in that you emphasize performance
    and composition over reading notes. When did you realize that kids might be more
    attracted to learning music this way?</em>
    <br />
    <em>DW:</em> To people who do not make music
    themselves, this may seem mysterious. However, music is a language and like all
    languages, we learn to speak them before we learn to read them. We all learned
    to speak before we went to school. And what did we speak about? Things that
    interested us. We teach kids to play the music that interests them and we
    approach it non-notationally, at least at first. 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. That was the way that got me hooked.
    Like so many other people from my generation, I did have music as a kid but the
    classes I took did not speak to me and yet I loved music. I learned music
    from my friends, from records and from the street. It became a passion and an
    obsession but one that developed outside of the academy. Little Kids Rock is my
    attempt to reconcile this approach with the academy and, in so doing, rock the
    lives of a lot of kids.<br />
    <br />
    <em>CW: How were you originally able to get
    celebrity sponsors like B.B. King and John Lee Hooker involved?</em>
    <br />
    <em>DW:</em> Our
    appeal to celebrities has always been very grassroots and organic. In the early
    days I would send tapes of our students’ original compositions to artists and
    ask if they’d like to get involved. Upon hearing our kids, people wanted to get
    involved. 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, once they
    got to play with them and make music, they tell their other musician friends and
    our artist outreach is all word of mouth.<br />
    <br />
    <em>CW: Anything else you like to
    add?</em>
    <br clear=”all”>
    <em>DW:</em> Yes. If you love music then you are innately musical and a
    music maker. Anyone who ever told you otherwise was lying. </p>
    <p>
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    <br />”<a target=”_blank” title=”” beyond=”” baby=”” mozart,=”” students=”” who=”” rock,””=”” href=”http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/08/beyond-baby-mozart-students-who-rock/”>Beyond Baby Mozart, Students Who Rock<span>
    </span>
    </a>
    <span>,”</span>
    <em>New York Times</em>, September 8, 2011<br />
    <br />Main site: <a target=”_blank” title=”LittleKidsRock.org” href=”http://www.littlekidsrock.org”>LittleKidsRock.org</a>
    <br />
    <br />
    </p>

    Published on Oct 16, 2012

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