Winter Showcase and Winter Jams

Winter Student Showcase

Rock to the Future students took to the virtual stage in December for the 11th annual Winter Showcase!

Like other Winter Showcases before it, the 2020 showcase brought Rock to the Future's community members, volunteers, staff, and supporters together to celebrate our talented students. Classes played together, in videos of the songs they learned during this semester's virtual programs. Students who created their own original songs in the Hip Hop, Digital Music, and Create with a Pro Musician classes heard their tracks come to life with graphics and animation. The Art and Music and Video Game Creation classes showed off the products of their hard work, and the Ready for the Future club and Teen Leadership Council introduced themselves and let viewers know what they spent the semester planning and learning. To cap it all off, State Representative Mary Isaacson presented Rock to the Future with a Pennsylvania State Citation to recognize 10 years of service in providing accessible music education. Check out the full showcase below, or head to our Youtube page to see individual class performances.

We weren't able to meet in person for our usual pizza party and potluck after the show. Instead, we took the party to Zoom! It was great getting to see everyone's faces, even virtually. Several staff and students performed, including 12th grade student Nia, who blew us all away with her cover of Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah:

Winter Jams 2020

Rock to the Future students released another Jams album! The album is filled with original songs and beats, and was featured in XPN's The Key. Like all student albums, it's free to stream and download on our Bandcamp page.

Thank you students, families, staff, volunteers, and supporters for rocking with us in 2020! We're looking forward to spending another exciting year with you in 2021. Registration for winter semester classes ends January 6, and our next student showcase is right around the corner in March. Plus, don't forget about the annual Music for All Ball in April! Here's to another rocking year!

Rockstar Nia on Rock to the Future

Guitarist, singer, and high school senior Nia D. performed a cover of Sticky Fingers' Cyclone for Keep Music Alive's virtual Sip, Savor, and Song gala in November:

Nia joined Rock to the Future to explore her passion for music. Since joining, she has played on stage at Union Transfer, World Cafe Live, the Fillmore, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and more as a vocalist for the Student House Band.

Now in her senior year of high school, Nia reflected on her time in Rock to the Future and her hopes going forward:

"For me, Rock to the Future means being able to continue my interest in music. I've always been involved in music, so when there came a point where I no longer had that creative outlet that I needed, my mom searched around and found Rock to the Future. I was able to continue with singing and performing as I had been, and even picked up a few instruments along the way."

"My favorite experience by far has been being in the Student House Band. Student House Band meant being able to expand the types of songs I could perform and exposed me to more varied performance settings than just my school's auditorium."

Nia performing her original song D.I.E. (Does It End) at the 2019 Music for All Ball.

"After my senior year I plan on traveling a bit, then later setting up a home base for any business endeavors and music based things I'd want to do. I'd like to think that I'll become more involved in the management of venues, and maybe even get a chance to regularly perform in them too. Really though, I'm just excited to start trying things out."

Help students like Nia learn, grow, and rock with a donation to Rock to the Future. Your support helps us keep our music programs free for Philly area youth.


Give the gift of music

Over the past ten years, thousands of children and teens have benefitted from Rock to the Future’s unique and innovative programs. We have seen the magic of music time and time again -- 100% of graduates of our MusiCore After School program have pursued post-secondary education.


“When I registered Max into Rock to the Future, he did not want to join any programs. I told him, ‘Give it a try, if you don’t like it then you don’t have to do it,’ but I secretly knew that he was going to enjoy it. What I didn’t know was how much it would help him. After he started I noticed that he became more responsible with his homework, schoolwork, and chores, became more social with his fellow classmates, and even acquired time management skills.

- Yudeliz V, guardian of 9th grade student Max


While gearing up for our ten year anniversary celebration, the pandemic put our plans on hold. With your support, we launched online programs in April to keep students like Max connected, learning, and creating from home through instrument lessons, classes in music production, and one-on-one academic tutoring. Donors like you ensure that we can give every new student an instrument. We are proud to continue our free music programs so that every student in Philadelphia has the chance to find their voice. Max is able to continue learning music with us online during the shutdown, and we gave him a guitar and drum set to play at home.


“Max has created a studio on the third floor of our house. He loves to practice and play his instruments. He has learned how to tune and repair them and is not afraid to ask for help when needed. He tells me what he has learned everyday and shares his new learned skills with such joy and confidence that he can accomplish anything.” - Yudeliz V.


Funding for the arts fluctuates, but Rock to the Future provides consistent music education because all kids need the skills and life lessons learned on stage. Your gift to Rock to the Future helps Philadelphia students to learn, grow, and rock.


Thanks to two generous donors, all of the donations received before the end of 2020 will be matched up to $40,000. That means your gift is doubled!

Give the gift of music to a Philadelphia student and help the next generation to keep rocking!


Rocking at home – Instrument Pick Up Day!

Teen holding a pink guitar with matching face mask

With our fall-semester virtual classes starting up, we need to make sure all of our students are prepped and ready to rock! Some awesome volunteers spent a Sunday in our office above Fireball Printing in Kensington to spruce up our instrument collection. With our ukuleles, guitars, bass guitars, keyboards, and drums cleaned, repaired, and organized, we spent the last week of September passing out instruments to students.

Some students and their families came to our office to pick up instruments. All our instruments were sanitized before being given out, and students signed up for time slots to enforce social distancing. It was great to meet new students, and see returning students in person! We're always happy to see our students through the computer screen, but it's still nice to see our students try out their new instruments in person.

Chief Music Officer Josh also hit the road in the Rock to the Future van to bring instruments to students. With their new instruments, our students are all ready to learn and rock from home!

Thank you to all our instrument donors! Instrument donations help us provide free instruments to Philly students. If you have a guitar, bass, keyboard, or drumset to donate, fill out our online form to donate it to a Philly student. Special thanks to Keep Music Alive, Hungry for Music, and Shane from Swarthmore Boy Scout troop 112, who donated a truck full of instruments as his Eagle project!

Thanks to the volunteers who helped us get instruments ship shape! Because of our awesome volunteers, donors, and supporters, Rock to the Future students are ready for a new semester of rocking from home. You can help us repair donated instruments, purchase instruments and supplies, and pay for deliveries with a donation to Rock to the Future.


Our Impact! 2019 – 2020 School Year Impact Report

Hello Rock to the Future family,

In 2010, I left the financial services industry to start Rock to the Future as a volunteer organization with only 13 students after school. Through hard work, support from our community, and generous funders, we are now serving hundreds of youth each year through programs in-school, after, school, during the summer, and online. 

Rock to the Future made huge leaps this school year. We won a competitive contract with Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services, developed our third strategic plan with team members, students, volunteers, and board members, and expanded our programs -- including opening our first partner location in West Philly!


While planning for our 10th year anniversary celebrations, the unexpected COVID pandemic put our physical programs on hold. With feedback from our students and families, we launched online programs to keep students connected, creating, and learning, while also planning for our future. Our virtual programs are helping us reach more students, are supporting digital equity, and are teaching vital digital literacy skills. 

Over ten years our organization, team, and students have achieved so much more than I could have ever imagined.

I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years has in store for us - bring it on!

With Gratitude,

Jessica Craft, CEO and Founder of Rock to the Future

Read the full Impact Report
Check out our 2020-2023 Strategic Plan

Cool down with chill beats

Cool down with chill beats!

Every year, students in Rock to the Future's MusiCore After School Program record their original songs in professional studios around Philadelphia. Our students weren't able to head into the studio this year, but that didn't stop them from putting out an amazing album!

Check out Summer Beats, a collection of 20 beats made by students in Rock to the Future's digital music production classes. The album is free to stream and download. Give it a listen and find your new summer jam!

Want to make your own beats? We're planning our schedule of virtual music programs for the fall. All of our programs are free for Philadelphia students in grades 4-12, and we have classes for all levels of experience, from beginners to beatmaking pros. Check out our calendar and register today - some classes are listed now, and more are on the way!

Summer Beats

Rock to the Future's online classes in digital music production teach students to use music software programs, like Soundtrap and Garage Band, to create original songs, beats, and loops. Students learn about music structure, explore the history of digital music production, increase digital literacy, and learn to use computer programs for creativity. Some students try new things and create new beats every class, and others work on their songs until they have a completely finished project. Either way, students are able to try new things. With both month-long classes and drop in workshops, students can create everything from short loops to full songs- all from home!

Check out this video that Rock to the Future student Tavis made showing off one of his beats, followed by beats from some other Digital Music Production students:

Rock to the Future keeps youth connected, creating, and collaborating online! Our virtual music instruction and live streams are made for all levels and some don’t require any experience or instrument ownership. Check out our class schedule and register online.

Virtual Student Showcase

Rock to the Future proudly presents its 10th annual Student Showcase- this time, it's virtual!

Students from our virtual classes performed over video to show off the music they created and learned this year. You name it, our talented students performed it: a capella songs, piano and guitar performances, digital beats, covers and original songs. Rock to the Future instructor Victoria Watts also played two covers that her students had been practicing before the shutdown in March as a tribute to their hard work.

Thanks for rocking with us this school year! These last few months have been challenging for sure, but it's been so energizing to see the Rock to the Future family rally together around this move to digital programs and socially distanced support.

Online summer programs are still open for sign ups. These classes are free and open to all Philadelphia students. We can help provide an instrument for students who don't have one at home- just let us know in your interest form. Students of all skill levels are welcome:

Emergency Art Action to Fund Black Futures

Rock to the Future, as a member organization of the newly-formed Artist Coalition for a Just Philadelphia ,will hold an Emergency Art Action to Fund Black Futures on Tuesday June 16 1 - 3pm at the steps of The Philadelphia Museum of Art, coinciding with City Council discussions on the 2021 budget. This action will use the power of artistic expression in the form of music, dance, and visual art to speak out against the complete defunding of arts and culture and increases in police funding. Everyone is invited to join us to express how the arts are essential to our communities and demand a city budget that defends Black lives and culture. The voices of Black, Indigenous, and persons of color artists will be centered and amplified.

Black communities are under attack

as services for parks and recreation, for public health, for the homeless, for education, and for arts and culture are under threat of being defunded by the proposed City of Philadelphia 2021 budget.

Since 2016, funding for the Philadelphia Police Department has continued to grow by $120 million under Mayor Kenney’s tenure. Artist Coalition for a Just Philadelphia demands that the city prioritize equitable funding that supports and strengthens Black communities rather than criminalizing them, including supporting funding for community arts programs through the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

The elimination of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund will devastate hundreds of community-based organizations, many of which already operate on shoestring budgets and in volunteer capacities. Data demonstrates that arts and culture programs support healthy community development, both medically and emotionally, and can decrease these public health crises’ that tax our economy.

The positive impact of grassroots arts and culture organizations is seen, heard, and felt throughout Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. These services are vital and support Philadelphia’s most vulnerable populations. In this current crisis, Black/POC led and serving arts organizations must be supported by demanding the continuation of community arts funding. Artist Coalition for a Just Philadelphia is a collective of grassroots arts organizations committed to using the power of the arts to uplift community voices in the fight for racial, social, and economic justice.

Event Link:

We are committed to pay all of the artists, musicians, and speakers performing at this event. You can help us make sure artists of color are paid for their time and talent with a donation towards paying our artists:

Resources for Anti-Racism and Self-Care

Hi Rock to the Future family. I wanted to check in with you all. This past week has brought up a lot of feelings for all of us. Please know you can reach out to staff and instructors with any questions or if you just need to talk. I also want to share some tools and resources with you. These include self-care tips, ways you can take action to work towards racial justice, and some resources on the history of civil rights and racial injustice for you to check out or share with others.

Self-Care Resources

Take care of yourself. Your emotions are valid, and that means all of them- even so-called “negative” emotions like anger, despair, and hopelessness. Here are some resources to help your emotional self:

Self-Care Tips for Black People Struggling With This Very Painful Week This guide includes steps like making sure your basic needs are met (Are you eating enough? Drinking enough water? Moving your body?), setting boundaries with friends and your own internet consumption, and taking time to celebrate Black art and artists.

What is Self-Care A great intro to self-care, including ways to check in with yourself and your emotions. This guide recommends journaling, or writing down how you feel or what you are doing, as a great way to work through your thoughts.

Self Care Plan & Sample Completed Self-Care Plan You can use this template to design a unique self-care plan. It includes listing supportive people in your life, outlining your goals, and planning ways to take care of your mental and emotional needs.

Philly Hope Line The Philly Hope Line offers free video and phone counseling services for School District of Philadelphia students, parents, and guardians. Call or text the Philly HopeLine 12-9 p.m. Monday - Friday and 12-4 p.m. on the weekend (or leave a message at any time for a call back). Phone: 1-833-PHL-HOPE (1-833-745-4673)

Get Involved From Home

2020 US Census online. The US Census determines funding for libraries, schools, ACCESS and SNAP benefits, and other community needs. Black, Latinx, and immigrant families have historically been undercounted in the census, which means these communities are underfunded. If your family has not filled out the census yet, encourage them to complete the census to be counted. The census can be completed through mail or online, and takes only a few minutes to finish. 

The 2020 primary election is tomorrow, Tues 6/2. Even if you are too young or otherwise unable to vote, helping others to vote and spreading factual information in this time of confusion is a great way to help! If anyone in your household is unsure of who to vote for, the Philadelphia Citizen has a great roundup of local candidates. Mail in ballots are due by 8pm on 6/2, and can be dropped off in special boxes around the city. Your local polling place may have changed because of social distancing requirements, and you can check ahead of time. Some polling places may provide sanitizer for you to use, and all polling places will be sanitizing regularly. Results of the primary help shape the platform for local and state elections, as well as the presidential election, in November.

POWER Philadelphia. This interfaith and multicultural advocacy group is working to create racial justice. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook for ways you can get involved, like their call for artists to submit artwork or videos for their Juneteenth festival.

Vote that Jawn. A youth-led organization that empowers Philly youth to vote and amplifies youth voices. They are currently campaigning to expand mail-in voting for the election this November, which means more people will be able to vote.

11 Things to Do to Support Black Lives Matter This guide from Teen Vogue has suggestions you can do from home, like starting a petition and sharing your rights with your friends and followers.

BuzzfeedNews’ Running List of Hoaxes and Misleading Posts about the Protests These days, misinformation is everywhere online. You can check this list to help you make sure the news you’re seeing and sharing is correct.

Crash-Course in Civil Rights

Deepening your knowledge is a powerful tool. Here are some sources to help you to better understand the history of racial injustice in America:

1619 Project The New York Times’ collection of articles, essays, and stories examines the history and impact of slavery in the United States and the way that legacy shapes our present. The project centers Black voices and shares stories you may not have heard before.

For Our White Friends Desiring to be Allies This article is a great place to check in if you are curious about what it means to be an ally for racial justice.

A Performance of Freedom Hidden City's in-depth look at anti-Black racism and laws in Philadelphia, from 1693 to today.

Or check out this list of shows and movies:

13th (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix

American Son (Kenny Leon) — Netflix

Dear White People (Justin Simien) — Netflix

Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler) — Available to rent

I Am Not Your Negro (James Baldwin doc) — Available to rent or on Kanopy (free with Free Library card)

If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins) — Hulu

Just Mercy (Destin Daniel Cretton) — Available to rent

King In The Wilderness  — HBO

See You Yesterday (Stefon Bristol) — Netflix

Selma (Ava DuVernay) — Available to rent

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution — Available to rent

The Hate U Give (George Tillman Jr.) — Hulu with Cinemax

When They See Us (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix

Take care and I hope your week is full of connection, hope, and healing! Rock to the Future staff is always here to talk and listen, so reach out if you feel uncertain.

With love,
Josh Craft
Chief Music Officer