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.

 

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