Local music education nonprofit reaches children citywide

Fishtown-based Rock to the Fu­ture launches new part­ner­ship with the Phil­adelphia Free Lib­rary.

Rock to the Fu­ture Pro­gram Dir­ect­or Joshua Craft helps Takhari Cas­selle, 10, play the elec­tric gui­tar for the first time at a free work­shop at the Cent­ral Phil­adelphia Lib­rary. ALI EAVES / STAR PHOTO

One in three schools in the School Dis­trict of Phil­adelphia has no mu­sic pro­gram, ac­cord­ing to the dis­trict. And private les­sons are ex­pens­ive, leav­ing scores of the city’s chil­dren with no ac­cess to mu­sic edu­ca­tion. But hus­band-and-wife duo Jes­sica and Joshua Craft of Rock to the Fu­ture are work­ing to change that.

Sat­urday marked the launch of non­profit Rock to the Fu­ture’s pi­lot part­ner­ship with the Phil­adelphia Free Lib­rary. Through the part­ner­ship, Rock to the Fu­ture holds free monthly mu­sic work­shops for chil­dren ages 3 to 17 at the Cent­ral Phil­adelphia Lib­rary, 1901 Vine St.

The work­shops are one of the non­profit’s new­est ven­tures in its mis­sion to provide free mu­sic edu­ca­tion to Philaedlphia’s un­der­served youth, in turn pro­mot­ing aca­dem­ic per­form­ance, self-es­teem, pas­sion and cre­ativ­ity for the city’s kids.

“It’s us­ing mu­sic as an in­cent­ive to help kids keep fo­cused and bet­ter their lives,” said Pro­gram Dir­ect­or Joshua Craft, 29.

When the Crafts star­ted Rock to the Fu­ture in 2010, they had 13 stu­dents, a few used in­stru­ments from Craigslist, a run­down church base­ment in Fishtown and a $17,000 budget.

This year they ex­pect to reach 300 stu­dents throughout the city, said Jes­sica Craft, 28.

The or­gan­iz­a­tion is also pi­lot­ing a part­ner­ship in the com­ing weeks with Hor­a­tio B. Hack­ett School, where Rock to the Fu­ture’s in­struct­ors will teach weekly gui­tar and pi­ano les­sons to ele­ment­ary stu­dents dur­ing the school day.

Hack­ett is one of the city’s lucky schools that already has a mu­sic pro­gram—but there are about 70 schools that do not, ac­cord­ing to the dis­trict. That’s where the Crafts want to go next, if they can get the fund­ing. It would cost $2,500 to $3,000 per school per year to ex­pand the pro­gram, Jes­sica Craft said.

Rock to the Fu­ture moved its Sat­urday work­shops from its Fishtown loc­a­tion to the lib­rary in the Fair­mount/Art Mu­seum area to make the pro­gram more ac­cess­ible to people all over the city, she said.

The work­shops are di­vided by age group and cov­er top­ics ran­ging from make-your-own shakers for the 5-and-un­der set to an in­tro­duc­tion to song­writ­ing for 9- to 17-year-olds.

Joshua Craft, who plays gui­tar and bass and has taught mu­sic for more than 10 years, teaches the work­shops with oth­er staff mem­bers or vo­lun­teers.

At one of the work­shops last Sat­urday, Craft taught elec­tric gui­tar to two 10-year-olds who had nev­er had a les­son be­fore. By the end of the hour, they both could play Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” and both wanted to con­tin­ue play­ing the gui­tar.

Stu­dents can pre-re­gister for the work­shops at rock­tothe­fu­ture­philly.org but 10 spots are left open for walk-ins.

Rock to the Fu­ture’s ori­gin­al pro­gram, the Mu­si­Core Af­ter­school Pro­gram, which provides stu­dents with mu­sic les­sons and help with home­work, is still go­ing strong with 35 stu­dents en­rolled this year, Jes­sica Craft said.

The Crafts have seen a real im­pact in their stu­dents—most of whom are from Fishtown, Port Rich­mond, or Kens­ing­ton, she said.

“We’ve seen kids go from fail­ing grade point av­er­ages to end­ing the year with a B av­er­age,” she said. “We also have kids that star­ted with A’s but nev­er had the op­por­tun­ity to play mu­sic, and then they pick up an in­stru­ment and they’re amaz­ing, and they wouldn’t have that op­por­tun­ity if the pro­gram didn’t ex­ist.”

Craft’s vis­ion is that the short-term im­prove­ment in the stu­dents’ aca­dem­ic lives will trans­late in­to a last­ing im­pact on the neigh­bor­hood.

“The long-term hope is that in a couple years, when they all gradu­ate from high school and get in­to col­leges, they’ll come back and help de­vel­op the com­munity,” she said.

You can reach at aeaves@bsmphilly.com.

comments powered by Disqus