In the spotlight: a year at Rock to the Future

Every month, we highlight some of our awesome students, volunteers, and staff in the Rock to the Future email newsletter. When someone is In the Spotlight, it’s because they rock- whether they’re a student who aced a hard test, an instructor who went above and beyond, or a volunteer who brings their best to the the program every day.

Take a look at some of last year’s Spotlights:

City Year and Rock to the Future Volunteer Day

We had a blast taking part in City Year Philadelphia’s 2019 Day of Service. Together with hundreds of volunteers from around the area, we painted 100 murals in Kensington High’s gym, hallways, and classrooms – including in Rock to the Future’s program spaces. Read about the day on WHYY.

Volunteer Joe L.

Joe Leone started volunteering at the MusiCore Kensington after-school program this fall, and he quickly became a rockstar volunteer. Check out the sign he made for the homework room! MusiCore Kensington students love seeing Joe two or three days a week, and his help is always appreciated. You rock, Joe!

Student House Band at Weathervane

Rock to the Future’s Student House Band recorded, mixed, and mastered an original song with Weathervane Music. During their intensive weekend at Miner Street Recordings, Rock to the Future students got a first-hand look at the process of recording in a professional studio. They’ll play their original song Coldstone on stage at the Music for All Ball on April 6th. It’s a metal track that tells the story of bassist Will’s psychic journey through a desert (it rocks!). 

BON VOYAGE KATIE FEENEY

After rocking with us for six and a half years, Development Director Katie Feeney is leaving Rock to the Future to follow her creative pursuits. All of us at Rock to the Future will miss having her brighten the office. You can still catch Katie performing all around the Philly area with her band, You Do You, and hosting the series Brightstar Buzz on PhillyCAM and Princeton TV.

“Thank you for all of your support over the past six and half years. Together we have worked to prepare hundreds of youth for every stage in life through music education. It has been my pride and honor to support so many talented youth through high school and onto college and professional careers. In fact, just last week I spoke to a former Rock to the Future student, Destinee, who was in 9th grade when I began working here and has just graduated from college. I know that the organization will continue to succeed and impact more youth like Destinee for years to come.”

MUSICORE GERMANTOWN SITE DIRECTOR MS. KAAMI MOORE

After leaving her job on Wall Street to start her own foundation to help underserved youth in the US and Colombia, Kaamilah Moore discovered Rock to the Future when she looked for opportunities to help youth in North Philly. Ms. Kaami spent four years as a volunteer homework helper at MusiCore, where she helped students to “train their brains,” and trained her own as well!

After four years of volunteering, Ms. Kaami was the first Academic Coordinator at the MusiCore Germantown after school location. She’ll be spending her sixth year with Rock to the Future as the MusiCore Germantown Site Director for the upcoming school year! Ms. Kaami is looking forward to seeing all of the returning students, and meeting new rockstars.

ROCKSTARS OF THE MONTH

Join us in celebrating October’s Rockstar of the Month, Nylah W! She exhibits all of the qualities we look for in a rockstar- she’s helpful, has a great attitude, and works hard to improve on the keyboard. You rock Nylah!

Congratulations to November’s Rockstar of the Month, 6th grader Mekane A! Mekane might be a quiet soul but he is a joy to have in program. He always pulls out his homework and comes ready to play the drums. Plus, he’s one of the few kids we know who checks to see how the adults are doing!

FOUNDING FOOTSTEPS SPONSORS COLLEGE VISITS

Philadelphia tour company Founding Footsteps donated a trolley to take Rock to the Future middle and high school students on a college tour in style. Students visited Temple University, University of Pennsylvania, Harcum College, and Cabrini College (where their tour guide was current Cabrini student and Rock to the Future alum Alex M).

It was great to see Rock to the Future students so excited about college tours, especially since the tour left at 8:30 am on a Monday off from school! At Rock to the Future, we build leaders through music. Thank you to Founding Footsteps, and to all supporters who help our students to rock.

Thank you everyone who rocked with us last year.

This year, 2020, marks Rock to the Future’s ten year anniversary. We’re looking forward to another ten years of providing innovative music programs for amazing students from all over Philadelphia.

If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all of the amazing people in our spotlight, please consider signing up for our email newsletter. Every month, we send out an update on all the news, opportunities, and performances going on at Rock to the Future.

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Bringing music to Philadelphia schools

"Music can be a game changer for students."

Rock to the Future’s in-school, after-school, and summer programs use music as the foundation for kids and teens to learn life skills that help them grow. Studies show that music education is not only a positive outlet for emotion, but also improves executive functions (memory, organization, planning, and self-monitoring) which build academic confidence and self-esteem.


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“Music can be a game changer for students. For students who tend to be stigmatized because of the name of their school, being highlighted in positive ways is new. Rock to the Future has allowed our students to shine in the best ways possible. Their approach to music, education, and community-building is beautiful. They have laid roots in our school and formed a relationship with our students and staff through music. Our students look forward to the program every day, and I look forward to growing together!”

-Lauren Murphy-Sands, Vice Principal of Kensington High School


At Rock to the Future, we see the impact that music programs have for our students every day. Unfortunately, it can be hard for families in Philadelphia to find accessible, high-quality music programs in their neighborhoods. That's why we provide our programs for free. All students deserve the opportunity to express themselves creatively, jam with their friends, and grow in self-confidence by taking the stage.


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This year at Rock to the Future:
  • Rock to the Future operates the MobileMusic program in six Philadelphia schools, providing music programs to over 200 students during the school day that otherwise had their school's funding for music programs reduced or cut.

  • This year, Rock*A*Delphia student bands wrote original songs together, and had their tracks professionally recorded at Miner Street Studios. Give their songs a listen on our Bandcamp! Both summer camps are free for underserved Philadelphia kids and teens.

  • The MusiCore After School program serves over 70 students in grades 4-12, with locations in Kensington and Germantown. Since our founding in 2010, 100% of 12th grade graduates of MusiCore After School have gone on to postsecondary education, like college or trade school.

  • We want our staff to grow along with our programs. Our staff and teachers are trained in trauma informed practices, classroom management, and other mentoring skills. Our staff builds a support system for students’ social and emotional development that allows kids to try new things in a safe space.

  • The MusiCore After School program recently received multi-year funding through the city of Philadelphia's Department of Human Services. Rock to the Future was honored to be recognized as one of only eight specialized service providers to be awarded funding for our out-of-school-time programs.

  • Student bands had unique experiences with music industry professionals. The Student House Band wrote and recorded an original song with the Weathervane Music Organization. Student bands performed with CVGEBIRD, Chill Moody, Julia Rainer, and Shane Henderson at the Music for All Ball.

Every time a Rock to the Future student masters a new drum beat, aces their biology homework, captures their feelings with song lyrics, or strengthens a friendship, Rock to the Future thrives. Whether a student learns after school, during the school day, or over the summer, Rock to the Future students learn that being a rock star requires dedication, practice, and hard work. Your support helps Philadelphia students to succeed on every stage.


Help us meet our $25,000 match with a gift today.
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Rock to the Future grad Destiny on building a future

Destiny started playing bass guitar at Rock to the Future last year, when her friend Camila encouraged her to join. “At first, I didn’t want to go, but she told me that I’d be learning to play music, and she was like ‘you’ve gotta go, it’s so fun!’” Destiny says. “So I ended up attending, and I played at the final performance on stage at World Cafe Live. At the performance, I won a laptop for college and a scholarship to help with tuition.” Now in her first semester of college, Destiny is working hard to reach her goals and build her future with the tools she learned at Rock to the Future.

Music and the arts help youth to develop the social and emotional skills we all need to learn in order to thrive. Through music, Rock to the Future students learn to express themselves, check in with their emotions, and work collaboratively with other students. As they grow with us, students develop the confidence to shine on stage and in life. Our graduates gain the skills they need to succeed, now and in their future academic and professional careers.

Before Destiny joined Rock to the Future, she had given up on music.

“I played guitar and sang when I was younger, but I’ve had some hard times and some sad times, and that made me not what to play an instrument. After I turned 15, I stopped playing music,” Destiny says. Between the pressure to fit in at a new school and the stress of living in the foster system, she pushed her love of music to the side. Fortunately, thanks to the support of her friends and Rock to the Future staff, Destiny started using music to express herself, relieve stress, and build confidence. Having a creative outlet made her feel more like herself. “Once I started playing again, it was like remembering how to be me. It reminded me to be comfortable with who I am- it’s all about being comfortable with who you are.”

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Destiny is studying at Community College of Philadelphia while she works part-time. She’s already making plans to transfer to a four-year program. “Rock to the Future made college a priority, and they made it a priority to start somewhere, to keep the ball rolling after high school. They made sure I was enrolled at CCP, even if I planned to later go to a four year university. In high school, my grades weren’t good enough to get into the schools I wanted to go to. So now I’m at CCP, and I’m studying and trying to succeed in my classes. I’m also in the process of applying to four year universities, putting in transcripts and writing essays.”

Through her classes, Destiny was introduced to the education field. She’s hoping to major in education, and working to become a classroom teacher: “I get so much excitement and so much happiness when I think about taking classes that pertain to my major– like teaching kids in a classroom, or learning about classroom management and how to talk to kids.”

There is magic in learning and playing music. We believe that every kid in Philadelphia should have access to that magic at no cost. 

Everyone should have an outlet for creativity, regardless of economic status. When you support Rock to the Future’s free music programs, you give every student in Philadelphia the chance to find their own voice.

GIVE THE MAGIC OF MUSIC TO STUDENTS LIKE DESTINY TODAY. ALL GIFTS MADE BEFORE 12/31/19 WILL BE MATCHED – THAT MEANS YOUR DONATION IS DOUBLED!
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Rockstar Chanel – Growing Through Music

Chanel joined Rock to the Future in the fall of 2018, when MusiCore Kensington moved into Kensington High School. The 10th grader has been playing guitar ever since. As a member of the Student House Band, Chanel commits to extra practice time and performance opportunities. Chanel takes her responsibility as a House Band member seriously outside of practice as well. She sees herself as an ambassador of Rock to the Future: “With new people, if I see they’re sitting at a table alone I’ll just walk up to them and be like “hi,” and introduce myself, and tell them about Rock to the Future and let them know that they don’t have to be scared to talk to us, because we’re friendly people.” When the new school year started in September, Chanel and her bandmate Will went around to the new students to make sure everyone felt welcomed.

“Literally the next day, they were sitting at tables together and everyone was talking to each other. That really opened up a place in my heart. It made me so happy, because I never thought I could bring people together. Sometimes I feel nervous to talk to new people, but because I’m comfortable here, I just saw that it was necessary for me to make sure other people were as comfortable as I am.

This spring, Chanel wrote and recorded the original track Coldstone with the Student House Band. The band played Coldstone, along with some of their favorite cover songs, live on stage in front of a crowd of over 250 people at the 2019 Music for All Ball.

Playing guitar on stage is huge for Chanel. She started playing guitar when she was seven years old, but had never taken guitar lessons until she joined Rock to the Future.

Chanel hopes to keep growing as a musician. She’s learning eleven songs with the Student House Band this year, and she’s trying to learn to play three songs from one of her favorite bands, Tame Impala. Fourteen songs is a lot to learn, but Chanel isn’t giving up: “I look forward to learning new things every day. I want to learn new things at Rock to the Future, take it home and practice, and get it in my head. Then, I want to feed the things I learned about my instrument back into my band and pass it on. I want to learn everything that I can, and use that knowledge as a tool for my music. My goal for this year is to keep trying and never give up. I want to keep learning and getting better with my instrument.”

Your support helped Chanel to achieve her dreams. Chanel set ambitious goals for herself, worked hard, and was able to reach her goals and rock on stage. At Rock to the Future, our students learn that the confidence needed to be a musician, bandmate, and performer is transferable to all stages of life. Will you give the gift of music to students like Chanel this year?

“I love playing my guitar, and Rock to the Future gave me the capability to play as well as I do now. I appreciate you all! Rock to the Future is a peaceful, friendly space that you can be in with no drama while you learn new things.”
– Chanel, 10th Grade

Unfortunately, there is a music education gap in Philadelphia. It can be hard or impossible for students to find affordable music programs. Rock to the Future believes that high-quality music programs give students important tools to grow — not just musically, but academically, socially, and emotionally. With your generous support, Rock to the Future is able to provide free, innovative music programs for hundreds of Philadelphia students each year who would otherwise not have access to music education. Your donation helps youth in Philadelphia to find their voice.

Rock to the Future is committed to the growth of students like Chanel. Funding for the arts fluctuates, but Rock to the Future provides consistent music education because all youth need the skills and life lessons learned on stage. Will you support Rock to the Future to help us provide a safe, encouraging space for youth to grow at their own pace and in their own way? Thanks to a generous donor, your gift of any size will be matched if you donate to us by 12/31/19 – that means that your gift is doubled! Your tax-deductible gift means so much to Chanel and students like her, who are discovering their voices with us every day.

DONATE TODAY
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Rock to the Future wins DHS funding

Rock to the Future is proud to announce that we are one of eight organizations that were awarded funding as a Specialized Services Provider of out-of-school-time (OST) programming through the Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS). We’re thrilled to be chosen, and to confirm our commitment to provide innovative after school programming that brings the magic of music to Philadelphia youth.

This is the first year of the special service provider category for DHS OST funding. After a very competitive process, Rock to the Future is one of only 5% of applicants who were awarded.

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The value of music education lies not only in learning how to play, but in nurturing a performer who is willing to take the risk and step out on stage. At Rock to the Future, we know that the magic of music impacts youth in all aspects of their life. Thank you DHS for helping us provide quality music education for Philadelphia youth.

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Become a BANDmate

September means a lot of things;

as summer turns into fall, students head back to school and Rock to the Future’s MusiCore After School and MobileMusic Workshops start back up after a few months away. At Rock to the Future, we spend the summer planning for the next school year and sprucing up the program sites (plus, we spend two weeks rocking at summer camp). With school back in session and Rock to the Future’s programs kicking off for another school year, we’re more grateful than ever for our BANDmates! As monthly donors, BANDmates help us provide free music programs to Philly students

Monthly donations help Rock to the Future to plan for whatever life throws at us. Funding for arts programs fluctuates, but Rock to the Future is committed to providing quality music instruction to Philadelphia students for free. But we can’t do it without your help.

For the month of September,

 if you sign up to be a BANDmate for $10 or more a month we’ll send you some awesome gifts so you can show off your support for Rock to the Future. Plus, For this month only, all new BANDmates will be matched! When you sign up to give monthly, our rockstar Board of Directors will match your donations – every month.

Join the BANDmates to provide reliable support for music education in Philly.

Become a BANDmate

What does BANDmate stand for?

Be Awesome N' Donate-
Monthly, Actually. Thanks Everyone!

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Summer Camps 2019

The new school year is right around the corner, with MusiCore After School starting back up on September 17th. The summer is almost over, and we had a blast at GuitarStars and Rock*A*Delphia summer camps this year!

GuitarStars and Rock*A*Delphia are week-long day camps at Rock to the Future’s Kensington location. Campers practice their choice of instrument in group lessons, learn vocal techniques in the choral ensemble, and attend workshops and performances from professional musicians. Both camps end with a performance of the camp bands’ original songs, played live on stage for friends and family!

Rock*A*Delphia campers recorded their original tracks at Headroom Studios. You can hear their songs on Rock to the Future’s Bandcamp page. It’s always amazing to see campers write whole songs from scratch with their new bands – in under a week.

Rock to the Future summer camps use music to inspire kids and teens to find what they love and who they want to be. Be sure to sign up for our email newsletter to be the first to hear when 2020 summer camp registration opens. Thanks for rocking with us this summer!

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ROCKSTAR SCHOLARSHIP FUND – $4,000 IN COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS FOR RISING STARS!

Once again, 100% of graduates

of Rock to the Future’s MusiCore After School Program have professional career plans for college, trade school, or the military.

In June, Rock to the Future awarded the third year of Higher Education Fund scholarships. The fund, established in honor of Jaime and Andrew Katz, provided $4,250 in scholarships to four graduating seniors from Rock to the Future’s MusiCore After School Program. The awards honor the students’ academic and personal achievements made in their time at Rock to the Future.

Keyboard student Camila is studying pre-med in Chicago.

Drummer Shem is pursuing an engineering career with the US Navy.

We’re so proud of these talented students. It’s always bittersweet to see a student graduate- because even though we miss rocking with them at MusiCore, it’s exciting to see them grow and flourish.

Learning to express yourself through music can be a powerful tool. As bass student Destiny said, “playing my bass guitar has brought more comfort and makes me understand that I am loved and appreciated. I try as often as I can to tell those that have helped me along the way that they are appreciated as well.”

Destiny joined Rock to the Future in September 2018, when the MusiCore Kensington program moved to Kensington High School. She had never played bass guitar before, but instantly fell in love with the instrument. Applying to colleges while navigating the foster care system was difficult, but Destiny felt supported by Rock to the Future’s staff and teachers. “Sometimes I just decide that I want to come. I fight my urge to stay home, and it makes more of a positive impact on me because the setting is a lot smaller than the environment during school days. I love the feeling I get when I arrive; it kind of feels like I can leave all of my problems.”

Drummer and guitarist Ethan is studying audio engineering at the Community College of Philadelphia.

Bassist Destiny is enrolled at the Community College of Philadelphia.

At Rock to the Future, we know that the lessons that students learn on stage can apply throughout their lives. That’s why our programs are completely free for underserved Philadelphia youth. At Rock to the Future, students learn that being a rockstar requires dedication, practice, and hard work. As a result, Rock to the Future students are prepared to take on any stage.

All photographs by Chris Kendig Photography

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Listen to this year’s student songs

Every year, Rock to the Future students head into the recording studio to professionally record their original songs.

MusiCore student bands vary as widely as the students in them, and it shows! This year’s tracks cover genres from hip hop to metal. The songs are free to stream and download, so find your summer jam!

Teamwork plays an important role in any band, and Rock to the Future’s student bands are no exception. Rock to the Future students need to work together to write a song, perfect their parts, and play on stage. As a result, students learn that success depends on working together to build the best team.

MusiCore Germantown

Students from MusiCore Germantown recorded their original songs at Retro City Studios, where they got a look behind the scenes in a professional studio. Their album has four tracks that were written separately but flow together to create a view of life as a student living in Philadelphia in 2019 – the album blends the infectious joy of “I Like to Rock” with the pressure and frustration of “School Stress” and explores the effects of gun and police violence in “Solutions” and “Equals.”

MusiCore Kensington

The MusiCore Kensington bands get political too, in songs like “Collateral Damage” and “8 Foot Man,” gets romantic with “The Dove,” and gets romantic about food with “Milkshaek.” There are two instrumental tracks on the album- “When I Saw You” and “Don’t Worry.” MusiCore Kensington students recorded their songs at Miner Street Recordings, where the Student House Band recorded their original songs “Coldstone” and “Without You.”

MusiCore will start back up in September. If you are interested in learning to play drums, guitar, bass guitar, or keyboards (plus forming a band, writing and recording music, and learning about music theory and digital music), register for a 2019-2020 MusiCore program.

All photographs by Chris Kendig Photography

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Rockstar Ethan wins Scholarship from D’Addario Foundation

When Ethan was 11 years old, his mom Karen watched him keep the beat while playing Rock Band in their home.

She was impressed with his drum skills, and she knew he would benefit from drum lessons. She searched for a music program where Ethan could grow as a musician, and found Rock to the Future.

Rockstar Ethan and Rockmom Karen Testimonial Video

Eight years later, Ethan has definitely grown as a musician. He plays drums and guitar, and he’s learning bass. This year, he joined a touring metal band and has been playing live shows.


As impressive as his musical chops are, Ethan’s journey has been about more than music. Through Rock to the Future, Ethan has made lasting friendships and discovered new ways of expressing himself. He’s just graduated high school and plans to study music at the Community College of Philadelphia. Through music, Ethan gained the self-confidence to succeed as a performer and student, both now and in his future academic and professional careers.

We’re so proud that Ethan was chosen as one of ten recipients for a 2019 D’Addario Foundation Scholarship. The scholarship couldn’t have gone to a more deserving student, and we’re thrilled to see Ethan be honored and receive extra support for his ongoing education.

It’s always bittersweet when a Rock to the Future student graduates. Of course we’re sad to see Ethan off to college, but we’re so excited to see what his future holds.

Check out Ethan’s MusiCore Kensington band Rat Corpse – their original song “Collateral Damage” is free to stream and download on our Bandcamp.

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