Steven Van Zandt Brings Rock & Roll Into The Classroom
I first got introduced to Steven several years ago when he was on the Sopranos. During my interview with him we discussed many things, Little Steven’s Underground Garage, Sopranos, fellow musicians we both knew, and to my delight Edie Falco. I could sense even then how emphatic Steven was on educating people about the benefits of learning all we can about rock & roll. Over the years we’ve stayed in touch, and his beliefs became even stronger. Now Steven is doing something about it, through the educational system.
Steven Van Zandt announced that his Rock & Roll Forever Foundation will partner with the Grammy Museum to launch “Rock & Roll: An American Story (RRAAS),” a music education curriculum that will enable middle and high school students to learn about the societal influence of rock music. The lesson plans run the gamut of rock & roll, from its roots in blues, country, R&B and gospel to its present-day iterations.
“Our point is the opposite of the approach taken in the past, which is, ‘Take that iPod out of your ear and pay attention,’” Van Zandt told Rolling Stone at his presentation in New York. “Rather, we ask, ‘What are you listening to? Let’s trace it back and talk about it.’ What that forms is an immediate common ground and immediate engagement. I never had that.”
Van Zandt cited a school librarian who piqued his interest by connecting Bob Dylan to the literary greats, then moved on to Beat poets, who he said were “exotic” to a kid in New Jersey. “Through this simple gesture, the classroom came alive for me,” Van Zandt explained. “I was engaged. Songs became portals; look through them and you’ll see the connection.”
RRAAS will launch in the fall; within three years’ time, organizers hope it will reach major target cities. I have wondered for years why rock n roll wasn’t included in the music classroom. Like Steven, I never had that opportunity in school, hopefully my grandson will.