October Musical Musings

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Brandon W. on: Queen’s We are the Champions and Under Pressure

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I will be speaking about the fantastic inspirational band: Queen.  Right off the bat, I would like to explain that Queen is one of my top five favorite bands in history.

First off, the song we listened to was We are the Champions.  I loved this song; I always have.  The song has a meaning, well you know, other than the music, instruments, vocals and the rest of the structure a normal song. We are the Champions has a very strong meaning. It’s pretty much saying he’s been through a lot of what usual people have to face, but he’s not going to give up. He’s a champion and is definitely making it known, no matter how much you push him down he is going to LEAP back up bigger and badder with more and more followers. Till eventually, he pushes you down and you lose. Freddie Mercury was a lot of things, but one thing he wasn’t was a quitter. And, he made it known through this song.

Back to the song structure: I love how it starts off dull and slow and picks up and BOOM, hits your ears like a majestic leprechaun riding a Pegasus, all the while singing We are the Champions. All and all, I love this song and it’s and amazing song from my perspective, it’s Queen’s most strong and powerful song!

The second song we are musing about is Under Pressure. Now, even though this song is slow, it still has a pick-up and it even made me cry a bit. Now, every song has a meaning and yet I kind of only caught half the meaning of it. Ether way, it was still a good song to me.

I loved the rhythm to this song, it just makes you want to hum it, which is exactly what you want in a song. The lyrics are alright, but you know, it’s queen what are going to do? I loved how it picked up during the chorus, it was excellent yet dangerous. This is because when bands usually have that slow of a song and try to speed up the time signature it sounds horrible. However, what Queen did in this son was musical genius, and had such a feel to it that you have to like it. In conclusion, I liked this song. Not everyone does but who cares? I like it and that’s all that matters!

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Sammy on: Nirvana and Kimmi Smiles

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The artist Kurt Cobain was someone who wasn’t afraid to be different, he is someone who did what he felt. As an inspiration to some younger generations, Cobain wasn’t afraid to write what he felt. In my opinion, Cobain is a man of vision, and a man who dared teens and others to be different – to be truly unique. This is why Cobain is an inspiration to young people. This is why he is an inspiration to me.

Kimmie Smiles:

When listening to Let it Go cover by Kimmie Smiles, I feel that she put a lot of emotion and energy into the song. When singing or even playing an instrument, you have to put energy into it. You want it to express yourself and let the music flow through you. It isn’t important if people are around you. What is important is you put your all into it, and Kimmie smiles accomplished this. So in the end just be you.

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Gerry “King of the Dinosaurs” on: Comparisions between Ahmir and Kimmi Smiles covers of Let it Go

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The Ahmir version of Let it Go makes me get somewhat emotional due to its soft nature and blending harmonies. The Kimmi Smiles version, however, makes me feel energetic and want to get up and rock out! Also, I like the unique style of rock Kimmi does.

Honestly, I do not like how the Ahmir version uses so much auto-tune; The song just doesn’t sound right without 100 percent pure human voice. I also like how Kimmi Smiles  is very sped up. Even though the song was written to be sung slow, she did a very good job of transforming it.

Now to get to the lyrics of the song:  To me, Let it Go is about letting go of all your fears and just going for it! It’s a message that really says to forget about everything else and to be yourself, and to not care what anybody else thinks.  I like the rock version because it better suits the theme of the song. Rock and Roll is all about losing control and doing whatever sounds right to you without caring about what other people are playing or whether people will like it or not.

In conclusion, both versions are great incarnations of the song. However, I personally prefer the rock version because I feel it best captures the essence of the song.


Featured in JUMP Philly Fall 2014


Josh Tirado was older than the age limit at Rock To The Future, a free music workshop for city kids, when he started picking up his little sister, Samira Long, there four years ago. While he was waiting for her to finish band practice, the 14-year-old, 5’9”, 230-pound high school football player would sit down with other students and assist them with their math homework.

One day, RTTF program director Josh Craft approached Tirado.

“He said if I keep helping kids with their math homework, he’ll teach me how to play guitar,” remembers Tirado.

Tirado quit football and visited the Kensington-based workshop after school nearly every day and most Saturdays for the next four years. While other kids in his Fishtown neighborhood were stealing bicycles, joining gangs, getting into fights and worse, Tirado learned how to play guitar, bass, piano and drums.

“Thank god I didn’t hang out with those kids,” Tirado says. “I’m not trying to mess up my future or anyone else’s.”

He had been bullied when he was younger but the music lessons gave him the social skills to deal with people. He quit fighting with his sister. Tirado became more disciplined and his grades improved – he was an honors student his last two years at Franklin Learning Center. In June, he became RTTF’s first high school graduate.

“He’s doing things on his own now,” says Tirado’s mother, Catherine Long. “He didn’t have the confidence to think he could do stuff before.”

In August, Tirado ended his RTTF house band career, performing the intricate guitar solo in Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” before a small crowd at a fundraiser for the organization. He started classes at the Community College of Philadelphia this semester. He plans to become an X-ray technician.



From student to instructor

Over the summer, I volunteered for the Rock to the Future summer camp. This involved teaching children how to play, read and perform music within only a week. Generally, it seems to be a living nightmare to teach young kids how to play instruments under the pressure of a deadline that lands on the end of the week. I admit that I was nervous upon entering the building; however, it proved to be the highlight of my entire summer.

While I watched the students learn and grow (both socially and musically), I discovered the delight of teaching somebody a skill and watching them–gradually but surely–understand and try. You connect with the students, and they respect you. They begin to ask you to help them, to teach them more than what is expected. That, in itself, is the most refreshing experience that I received over that week.

My students picked up their instruments for the first time on Monday, but Friday was not the last time. After the final showcase that Friday evening, I received a series of long hugs and goodbyes, but also promises – that they will continue to practice their instruments and perhaps participate in the following year’s summer camp.

Although I was not a student in this situation, I still found myself learning, side-by-side with my students. I discovered the different styles of teaching, the different personalities of individuals, different tactics to use when coaching, and, most of all, I discovered myself. – Cheyenne, 15 year old guitarist in MusiCore after school program and volunteer guitar instructor at Rock*A*Delphia and GuitarStars summer camp



Why it pays to be a RTTF Backstage Pass holder:

As a young organization, Rock to the Future relies on the amazing support of people like you to keep our music education programming completely free for low-income Philadelphia youth. So let me start by saying THANKS! As you know, in 2013 Rock to the Future rolled out our new membership program – the Rock to the Future Backstage Pass – to provide VIP access and exclusive events to our most dedicated donors and supporters. To cut down on printing and administrative costs, Rock to the Future will be discontinuing the annual Backstage Pass as of August 15, 2014 and is now only offering the Rock to the Future Lifetime Backstage Pass, (available for a donation of $350 to Rock to the Future.) As our way of saying THANKS for supporting this new idea in its inaugural year, anyone who donated last year to receive their 2013-14 Backstage Pass  will be automatically upgraded to receive a RTTF LIFETIME BACKSTAGE PASS! The new Rock to the Future Lifetime Backstage Pass is good for free entry to the annual Holiday Showcase as well as VIP treatment at Rally for Rock and discounted tickets to our annual gala – the Music For All Ball – FOR LIFE! Also, all Lifetime Backstage Pass holders receive a free RTTF tee or tank and get to bring their +1s and friends to exclusive supporter-only events like our annual Donor Appreciation Party and a special 5th Birthday Party (which we’ll be announcing later this year!)For those of you who were already RTTF Lifetime Backstage Pass holders – YOU ROCK! We couldn’t do it without your AMAZING support! Want to join this exclusive rockstar club? Donate $350 or more to RTTF today to score your LIFETIME Backstage Pass!

Thanks again, RTTF Backstage Pass holders – YOU ROCK!LIFETIMEBackstagePassFrontREVISED
p.s. – We have some surprise perks TBA for our Backstage Pass holders at the 2nd Annual Rally for Rock on September 13thRSVP to the event as a free attendee and wear your backstage pass to the event to receive a special gift – available at the RTTF table!


Rally for Rock 2014

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Rock to the Future Presents:
The 2nd Annual Rally for Rock

at Franklin Square
6th & Race Streets, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106 

Saturday, September 13, 2014, 2pm – 6pm

Philadelphia, PA – August 18, 2014 – Rock to the Future’s Rally for Rock is back!Taking place on Sat., September 13, 2014 from 2:00 – 6:00 pm at historic Franklin Square, the 2nd Annual Rally for Rock is a FREE outdoor concert featuring music from KUF KNOTZHEZEKIAH JONESJOEY SWEENEY & THE LONG HAIR ARKESTRA, and the ROCK TO THE FUTURE STUDENT HOUSE BAND . This year’s event features family-friendly live music, an interactive kids’ area, beer garden from Yards Brewing Company, craft and business vendors and more! In addition, Councilman Squilla – a known supporter for the arts in Philadelphia – will be speaking on the importance of supporting music education. Proceeds from the event will benefit Rock to the Future and their mission of providing music education for Philadelphia youth.

Rock to the Future is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that provides music education to Philadelphia’s underserved youth at no cost to them or their families. Using contemporary music instruction, their programs ignite passion and creativity, support academic achievement, and improve self-esteem.

“Rally for Rock is a fantastic opportunity for people to learn about the need for music education, the great work Rock to the Future is doing in Philadelphia, and have a blast listening to incredible local music,” says Executive Director Jessica Craft. “Plus, it’s free and family friendly!”

The Rally for Rock is free, but attendees may pre-register online for a special Rock to the Future gift.


Register to Vend or Sponsor
Want to volunteer? Sign up here
Facebook Event Page 
Visit Franklin Square on the web


Rock*A*Delphia Summer Camp 2014

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“Walking through the doors of Rock to the Future’s Rock-A-Delphia Summer Camp was both overwhelming, and exciting. Overwhelming because, well, I was five minutes late, and it was my first time volunteering at the summer camp. Exciting because I knew these teens were talented, and ready to learn. I was also excited to be helping with bass lessons. Although, my schedule was changed, and I was supposed to help with drum lessons. “I don’t know how to play drums! I don’t even have rhythm!” I said to myself. I followed the instructor, and the students to where we were going to be playing drums. Nervous, I set up the iPad, and listened in to what the instructor was saying. He taught them the basic rock beat, then continued on with drum fills. To finish his lesson, he gave the drummers certain sections to play for a group song (one drummer on the snare and bass drum, one on the high-hat, another on the floor tom, etc.). Now, my second day on the job, I know more about playing drums than I did before, and the students can play through the whole group song with little to no mistakes!” – Destinee, 17 volunteer from MusiCore after school program

“This summer’s Rock-A-Delphia’s summer camp has officially begun! Twenty kids and teenagers from ages 13-17 came out from various parts of the city to come and have fun! So far, over the course of these last few days the kids have done many activities together such as decorated their guitar straps, paint their drum sticks and make banners for their pianos and play games in the morning. They also practiced their instrument of interest. These instruments consist of guitar (bass guitar, acoustic guitar), piano, and drums.

The kids are broken up into four bands in which they create song lyrics and come up with a melody for it in order to make a song.

Lessons go well for the kids because they learn pretty fast and well and they love what they’re doing. They are very energetic and that makes the flow of the program so much easier.

Right now, we’re preparing for the showcase on Friday so that the kids can play in front of their parents and friends. We’re really excited!” -Lynn, WorkReady summer intern


Rock to the Future’s 1st Annual #MusicForAll Ball Tops the Charts!

Rock to the Future surpasses fundraising goal at 1st Annual SOLD OUT Music for All Ball!

Let me start by saying: Wow! 

When I started Rock to the Future in 2010, I didn’t completely foresee the amazing positive impact our programs would have on local youth. But Saturday night’s 1st Annual Music for All Ball was a fitting celebration of all of Rock to the Future’s accomplishments over the past four years. My staff, board and I were blown away by the amazing support from our donors, former instructors and volunteers, and event sponsors such as The Somers Team, Fishtown Neighbors Association, Fishtown Lawyers, Yards Brewing Company, Fireball Printing, Tri State Indie and more. Furthermore, we were honored to have support from local media (did you see us Sunday morning on ABC 6?) and community leaders such as Deputy Mayor Richard Negrin, who spoke at the Ball and began his remarks by asking our talented student house band to take a bow…

…. now THAT is what #MusicForAll is all about!

Rock to the Future’s 1st Annual Music For All Ball at the Ukie Club was an overwhelming success! This event sold out weeks in advance and featured live music from the RTTF Student House Band and PhillyBloco – a 22-piece Brazilian Samba band that delighted our 200 attendees and kept the party going all night! Rock to the Future exceeded our goal for this event and all funds raised will be put towards the direct costs of our music education programs for underserved Philadelphia youth.

We also inducted three amazing organizations into Rock to the Future’s Hall of Fame! Our inaugural RTTF Hall of Fame honorees included Women for Social Innovation, Delaware Investments and Curtis Institute of Music.

We already can’t wait for next year’s Music For All Ball! Stay tuned to our Facebook and Twitter this week and next for more pictures and updates from the event! Want to relive it now? Check out some pictures below or follow the #MusicForAll hashtag on our Facebook and Twitter!

To our supporters, volunteers, donors, sponsors and attendees – thanks again, You ROCK and we couldn’t do it without you!

Rock on,


Pia Toscano of American Idol kicks off Rock to the Future’s #MusicForAll Campaign

Did you know that: 

  • Due to budget cuts, most Philadelphia youth do not have access to music education in schools
  • Youth living in poverty in Philadelphia face many obstacles, including soaring crime rates in low-income neighborhoods
  • Music education can improve grades, graduation rates, social skills and standardized test scores, improve self-esteem and inspire at-risk youth

At Rock to the Future, we believe that ALL children should have access to music education to inspire and nurture their creativity despite their income level or social obstacles. We know that music has the power to heal, inspire and motivate them to follow their dreams. To raise awareness about the benefits of and need for music education programs for underserved Philly youth, Rock to the Future is excited to launch our new #MusicForAll campaign!

Beginning today with amazing singer Pia Toscano of American Idol, Rock to the Future will launch a new video every week between now and our 1st Annual #MusicForAll Ball on Saturday, April 14th. Our videos will feature national and local artists and music industry professionals sharing their stories about why music and music education matter to them.

We hope these videos will inspire you to get involved and help Rock to the Future create more opportunities for underserved Philly kids. Join the campaign and help support #MusicForAll. Watch Pia’s video here.


Rock to the Future partners with The Free Library of Philadelphia

Local music education nonprofit reaches children citywide

By Ali Eaves Jan. 14, 2014

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
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 Ali Eaves at aeaves@bsmphilly.com.