On a recent weekday afternoon the music coming out of the third floor of St. Michael’s Church in North Philadelphia would have surprised the Sunday congregation. A group of middle school students wailed away on electric guitar, drums and keyboard while a young lead singer belted out a rendition of Kiss’ Rock And Roll All Nite that would have made Gene Simmons proud.
The students were part of Rock to the Future, an after school music program. Philadelphia students ages 9-14 can apply for the free program and once accepted, can remain in the program until they turn 18. They receive private music lessons, attend workshops on song writing and music theory along with tutoring and workshops in academic subjects. Students are required to maintain a B average in their classes in order to continue attending Rock to the Future.
Founded by Jessica Mckay, the program currently employs eight staff members, and receives additional help from twenty volunteers. It receives funding through a grant provided by the organization Women for Social Innovation.
Many staff and volunteers are involved in the Philly indy music scene. Bands that have formed within the program have played venues such as World Cafe Live, Shad Fest, and Greens Grow Fall Festival.
Germantown resident and volunteer Nate Rylanmet Jessica McKay through contacts in the Philly music scene. He is enthusiastic about the program and said that the skills and self confidence gained by the kids are important. “Kids learn more than just music. It’s a great skill to be able to get up in front of an audience by yourself and handle the stage by yourself”.
The program is open to students throughout the Philadelphia.
Ricky Christian, Alex Stanilla, and Kurt Hodgins are students at the Philadelphia Univeristy of the Arts. This piece was produced as part of the collaboration between UArts and WHYY/NewsWorks.