Little Kids Rock Changes Lives

by By Tara Lynn Sparks, Teacher, Little Kids Rock, Tavelli Elementary School, Fort Collins

“Music changes children. Children change the world.”

– Dave Wish, Founder of “Little Kids Rock,” a nonprofit organization that funds and operates one of the largest free instrumental music programs in U.S. public schools and provides free instruments and curriculum to youth.

Confidence, creativity, and enthusiasm equal a life with passion. Passion is one of the greatest aspects about the citizens of Fort Collins, especially their passion for live music. Knowing this, The Bohemian Foundation brought Little Kids Rock Modern Band Method to our town four years ago. Whether you’re a parent, student, teacher, or a community with Little Kids Rock, your life is enriched.

Conveying what Little Kids Rock is, or the impact Little Kids Rock has had on my school, students, teachers, and myself is challenging. How does one put into words the sounds of my elementary music students’ learning to find their inner rock star? How does one explain the feeling you get while playing, learning, or teaching music?

Little Kids Rock’s mission statement attempts this description: “Little Kids Rock goes beyond donating free instruments like guitars, drums, and keyboards; they provide all of the resources teachers need to build lasting music programs that focus on teaching kids to perform, improvise, and compose the popular music genres that kids already know and love like rock, pop, hip hop, country, reggae, and R&B.”

Rob Deakin, one of the six Little Kids Rock teachers at Tavelli Elementary, says “Little Kids Rock has injected a new energy into Tavelli. We have 72 budding musicians who look forward to coming to school on Mondays because we jam together after school. As a teacher, I’ve got a new energy as well; to be able to play rock music with students as part of my job is an amazing opportunity.”

In the mornings before school begins, my school hears the sounds of 5th graders teaching others the basic drumbeat, how to wait your turn, how to listen, how to practice, how to persevere. Tavelli’s principal, Christine Hendricks, smiles from ear to ear when she hears the improvisational morning songs.

In music class, I teach musical concepts to my little music makers using the drum set, keyboard, and microphones as well as xylophones and recorders. Hearing students sing like rock stars at the microphone to “Hot Cross Buns” while creating hilarious verses such as “Cold Angry Bread” is heartwarming. Through improvisation, composition, and performance, students discover something about themselves, and it’s magical to witness as a teacher, music lover, and fellow musician.

Little Kids Rock puts the instruments in kids’ hands before learning how to read what they are playing. On their first day they learn a song and immediately feel that rush only playing music can provide. They go home and share that feeling of success and instant gratification. I have watched the confidence levels of my students rise exponentially. Many have overcome their fears of the microphone, of being on stage performing, trying new things, and sharing a part of themselves with others. Music creates boldness in communication.

Even though Little Kids Rock was designed for little humans, it has given this aging human’s life a boost of energy, motivation, and purpose. I felt passion again and a renewed sense of who I was as a teacher when Little Kids Rock came into my life.

While Little Kids Rock is a free program, it still needs equipment to function properly. The Bohemian Foundation gave us the instruments, training, and resources, but it’s up to the schools to provide the funds to repair or replace instruments and equipment. We rely on the generosity of volunteers and donors to make our program thrive.

Giving the gift of music education betters all of society. It can never be taken away as it is in people’s hearts and souls. It allows people to express themselves and share their poetry as well as their feelings. It makes them feel like they can do anything, like they are magical.

For more information about Little Kids Rock or how you can get involved in supporting this program, please visit:

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