“This is where I belong.” Camilla on joining Rock to the Future.

One day, Kensington High School student Camilla noticed a new drum set on the stage of her school’s auditorium. She asked someone about them- Simone Crew, the MusiCore Kensington site director, told her about Rock to the Future’s after school program. As soon as she heard that MusiCore was free and open to all students, Camilla was hooked.

Camilla has played piano and written her own music for years, but before joining Rock to the Future she only knew what she could teach herself. Even though she loved music, classes were always too expensive for her family. Now, her favorite class is her piano lesson and music theory class with teaching artist Barron Lacy: “It’s the best thing in the world. Mr. Barron’s great, he’s amazing! Every single piece I give him, he plays it and I start crying. Words can’t describe how great he is.”

She loves learning to play movie scores, especially music by Hans Zimmer: “It’s just so calming. I love those kinds of pieces that are really powerful and have meaning, even though there’s no words.” And, since she’s a senior and high school and applying to colleges, she needs all the calming music that she can get!

Camilla plans to study oncology, since cancer has touched her life and family. Finding the right school is hard, but Rock to the Future helps by taking students like Camilla on college visits and to college fairs. Camilla moved to Philadelphia last year, after Hurricane Maria hit her home in Puerto Rico. She first started looking at colleges in Pennsylvania with Rock to the Future, and she is excited about her options: “When I went on this college trip, it opened a lot of doors. I saw schools where I didn’t have to choose between medicine and music, but where I could pursue both. I have a shoebox full of papers from colleges!”

“Basically, this has been an escape. When I got here, I was so homesick that I couldn’t play. I still had passion, but I just closed myself off. So, I was trying to find ways to get back to what I loved. When I got to Rock to the Future and saw the piano, I just started playing it again and felt that this is where I belong. They helped me open the door to music again. Every day that I’m upset, I look forward to coming here and getting my mind off things with music.” – Camilla, 12th Grade

At Rock to the Future, our programs begin where the classroom ends. We help students like Camilla plan for the future with college visits, college application help, and a scholarship writing club. Rock to the Future uses music to inspire kids to find what they love and who they want to be, and your support helps us provide students with a safe and supportive environment where they can learn, grow, and ROCK.

Donate today to support students like Camilla – Rock to the Future is under $5,000 away from reaching our fundraising goal!

In her own words – Rock to the Future graduate Destinee shares her story

Picture this:

A young girl is walking home from school, devastated, because she has discovered the School District of Philadelphia had made budget cuts to the performing arts program. This young girl had dreams of becoming a Rockstar – what can she do now? Her mother showed her a flyer for a new program called “Rock to the Future,” and the rest was history!

I was that young girl. Rock to the Future gave me the opportunity to be the Rockstar I yearned to be. HOWEVER, I did not just learn how to be a Rockstar in music! Through active volunteer work with Rock to the Future, I learned how to be an independent woman in business and advertising; I learned how to professionally speak at events; and I learned the importance of making connections with others.

So where am I now?

Well, within the next year, I will be graduating from Penn State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology! When I am not working (or studying for my GREs), I am producing my own music – a skill I learned at Rock to the Future. I have travelled to Buffalo, Baltimore, and all around Pennsylvania for networking opportunities at conferences. I met Dave Coulier (Uncle Joey from Full House), Scott Stapp from Creed, and Bumblefoot from the late Guns ‘N’ Roses all because I had experience in setting up stage equipment! Finally, I am an active participant in Penn State’s Chamber Singers. My future plans include: Traveling across the U.S., applying to graduate school, and continuing to volunteer my time at Rock to the Future!

Thank you to everyone at Rock to the Future for guiding me through many major life milestones – I couldn’t have done it without you!

Peace & Love,
Destinee Mateo

Check our Destinee’s music online:
Instagram: instagram.com/rebelcreators 

Your gift helps Philadelphia youth grow as musicians, students, and young adults. Give the gift of music to students like Destinee – make a donation to Rock to the Future!

“It just made me feel more at home.”

When we think about rock stars, we think about Ethan.

Now in his senior year, Ethan has been at Rock to the Future since 2011. At the MusiCore Kensington year end showcase in June, Ethan received more than a round of applause – Ethan won an academic award for his high grades, and he was gifted a double bass pedal to help his heavy metal drumming. He hasn’t let the awards get to his head though. He’s busy looking at colleges to study music, performing in the Student House Band, and playing drums in a band outside of Rock to the Future.

Ethan receiving an academic award for his junior year grades.

The 2018-2019 Student House Band ad Jacobs Music.

Ethan is a multi-instrumentalist; though he started off playing drums, he puts equal weight on playing the guitar.  Along with the Student House Band, Ethan helped write the original song “Find What You’re Loosing” with Blind Melon guitarist Rogers Stevens.  

“I would say without Rock to the Future I wouldn’t be where I am now. It just made me feel more at home.”

Ethan has been in the Student House Band for six years. The House Band relies on teamwork to perform and write songs, which Ethan says usually goes smoothly. “If I just listen to a song I try to take a part of it or an element from that and turn it into my version. That’s kind of how it works.”

When Ethan joined Rock to the Future, his only musical experience was a video game – The Beatles: Rock Band. But his mom suspected that “he had drums in his soul.” When she saw an ad for MusiCore, she knew it would be a great way to encourage Ethan’s creativity. Now, Ethan is an accomplished drummer and guitarist, and he has made lasting friendships with other students in the program. 

“Because of Rock to the Future, I know my son has a future filled with friends and music. He will work at a job he will love –something that I’ve worried about for years… I am not afraid anymore. That’s what every parent wants. That was Rock to the Future’s gift to me.
-Karen C., Ethan’s mom

You helped Shaun to dream big.

This April, Shaun took the stage after a year of hard work. Through the stage lights, the crowd cheered on Shaun and his siblings, Jemaine and Myriah, as they got ready to play Alicia Keys’ “No One” that they spent months rehearsing. As the spotlight shone on him, with 200 supporters of family, friends, and community members cheering them on, he counted the band in. The Harrison Family Band brought the house down, and Shaun reached his goal of playing drums on a professional stage. He also reached his academic goals by joining the Rock to the Future Youth Leadership Council, and he won an award at school for improving his grades after working with his mentor at MusiCore every day after school. 

The Harrison siblings have been rocking at RTTF ever since Shaun’s parents signed him up for summer camp. Shaun was practically born a drummer- he’s been banging on pots and pans since he was three years old. The trip to MusiCore Kensington from the Harrison’s home in Mt. Airy isn’t easy- it’s about an hour each way. But when the Harrison parents saw how much Shaun loved making friends and playing the drums at summer camp, they signed him, and his sibling Jemaine and Myriah, up for MusiCore After School. Now, the three siblings come to MusiCore after school every day to grow as musicians.

Your support helped Shaun to achieve his dream and see how much his hard work can accomplish. 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 Shaun this year?

Rock to the Future believes that every student in Philadelphia deserves the opportunity to grow with music.

Unfortunately, there is a music education gap in Philadelphia. It can be hard or impossible for low-income youth to find affordable, high quality, and engaging music programs. Rock to the Future believes that music education gives underserved kids and teens important tools to grow- not only as musicians, but as students and individuals. We’re proud to provide our free music programs for over 300 at-risk youth annually. Thanks to supporters like you, Rock to the Future reaches students that attend dozens of Philadelphia schools. In 2018, we doubled the reach of our after-school program, where students receive homework help, tutoring, and college prep in addition to music lessons and band practice. No matter what instrument or music style they choose, we offer free after-school, in-school, and summer programs so that every child in Philadelphia has the chance to find their own voice.

Rock to the Future is committed to the growth of students like Shaun. Funding for the arts fluctuates, but Rock to the Future provides consistent music education because all kids and teens 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? Your gift of any size will be matched up to $25,000 if you donate to us by 12/31/18 – that means that your gift is doubled! Your tax-deductible gift means so much to Shaun and students like him, who are composing their futures with us.


We’re Growing – Rock to the Future’s New Look

Drumroll please.

After eight years, Rock to the Future is getting a makeover. We think that our new logo, designed by Brolik, perfectly captures the excitement and nervousness of stepping into the spotlight, taking a deep breath, and showing off your hard work on stage for all to see.

Our new logo, courtesy of Brolik.

As nice as a makeover is, the changes to Rock to the Future this year are more than cosmetic. In 2018:
  • Rock to the Future is operating the MobileMusic program in six Philadelphia schools, providing music programs to nearly 200 students during the school day that otherwise had their funding for music programs reduced or cut.

  • The GuitarStars summer camp was so popular, Rock*A*Delphia was opened to 12 year olds in order to accommodate demand. Both summer camps are free for underserved Philadelphia kids and teens.

  • We opened a second MusiCore location in Roosevelt Elementary School in Germantown. Adding MusiCore Germantown has doubled the reach of the MusiCore after school program, and this location accepts students in grades 4 – 8, meaning that students can stay involved with Rock to the Future’s ambitious after-school program for a longer period of time than ever before.

  • Rock to the Future is excited to strengthen our partnership with the School District of Philadelphia as we grow. Our MusiCore Kensington location recently moved to Kensington High School, bringing music back to the school and serving students from all over Philadelphia.

MusiCore Kensington uses Kensington High School’s stage for band practice. Session mixers from our partnership with Reverb Gives let two bands practice at the same time; bands plug their instruments and headphones into the same mixer and can only hear each other. Meanwhile, volunteer mentor Syderick helps students with their essays in the homework room in Kensington High School’s library.

  • We want our staff to grow along with our programs. We train our staff and teachers 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 program recently received a multi-year grant from United Way. Rock to the Future was honored to be recognized as one of the organization’s supporting United Way’s goals of ending intergenerational poverty by keeping youth connected to school.
  • Students saw huge academic success while they strengthened their social skills and musical ability. Once again, all of our graduating MusiCore seniors started college this fall, and the Higher Education Fund provided $3,000 in scholarships.

  • Student bands had unique experiences with music industry professionals. The Rock to the Future House Band wrote and recorded an original song with Blind Melon guitarist Rogers Stevens, performed with musicians at the Music for All Ball, and were featured in Revolver magazine for their collaboration with shoegaze band Nothing.

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.

These are just some highlights from this year- 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 in-school, after-school, or over the summer, Rock to the Future students learn that being a rock star requires dedication, practice, and hard work. We’re excited to keep growing. Thank you for growing with us!


Nothing frontman Dominic Palermo on making a difference with Rock to the Future

Somehow, between rehearsing with Rock to the Future students, sharing guitar tips, and playing on stage at the 2018 Music for All Ball, Domenic Palermo and Nothing found the time to release a new album.

Nothing’s third album, Dance on the Blacktop, is available now. In an interview with Revolver, Domenic talked about working with the RTTF House Band:

“It’s cool to be able to try to be a positive role model for somebody who might need one… These kids got talent, they’ve got great heads on their shoulders.”

Nothing and the RTTF House Band rehearsing Bent Nail at an open house in November 2017.

The RTTF House Band had a blast working with Nothing and seeing how music can help kids from any background to blaze their own path – plus, they still rock their Nothing swag at every opportunity. You can read the whole article about Domenic on Revolver (the article is NSFW), and check out Revolver’s video of the RTTF House Band meeting Nothing and rehearsing Bent Nail.


Summer Camps 2018

Once again, our summer campers braved a hot Philly July to spend a week playing music, jamming with their peers, and writing songs.

We’re always amazed by how much Rock to the Future summer campers can accomplish during their time at camp! From meeting new friends and writing songs together to learning an instrument and playing it on stage, GuitarStars and Rock*A*Delphia campers know that rocking out means working hard and stepping outside of your comfort zone.

Photographs by Chris Kendig Photography

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 showcase performance. Campers are always excited perform their original songs live on stage for friends and family!

Rock to the Future summer camps use music to inspire kids and teens to find what they love and who they want to be. Check back next year for 2019 summer camp registration, and thanks for rocking with us this summer!


Rockstar Scholarship Fund – $3,000 in College Scholarships for Rising Stars!

In June, Rock to the Future awarded the second year of Higher Education Fund scholarships. The fund, established in honor of Jaime and Andrew Katz, provided $3,000 in scholarships to three underserved Philadelphia teens from Rock to the Future’s MusiCore Kensington graduating class to attend college or trade school this fall. The awards honor the students’ academic and personal achievements made while taking part in MusiCore Kensington.

For the sixth year in a row 100% of graduating MusiCore Kensington students will attend post-secondary education.

“My goal for the future is to become a music teacher so that I can have the same impact on younger kids’ lives that my teachers have had on mine,” – Rock to the Future’s Youth Leadership Council President and vocalist Alexus Arthur.

Alexus always loved music, but her shyness made performing in public seem impossible. She joined the MusiCore after school program in eighth grade, and she’s been playing the keyboard and singing ever since. Now, Alexus can take the stage with no hesitation. This June, she performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH for the third year in a row. 

“I have always believed that music has the power to change someone’s life for the better. However, others believe that students are products of their community, and that where they live determines who they become. I want to be the type of music teacher that uses music to help students realize that they have multiple options when it comes to deciding who they want to be in life and that they have the power to be greater than their community.” – Alexus

This year, $3,000 was awarded to three graduating students. The Highest Achievement Award of $1,300 was presented to Alexus, who worked hard to improve her grades over the past five years with the goal of becoming a first-generation college graduate- Alexus will study music education at York College this fall. The Most Improved Award of $1,200 was given to bassist Lydia Monteiro, who plans to study Computer Science at Community College Philadelphia, with the goal of transferring to Drexel University. Pianist Richard Chase received the Highest Achievement Runner Up award and will receive $500 to study criminal justice at Canisius College. All graduating seniors were also given a MacBook Air, courtesy of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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


Hear Original Songs from the MusiCore Student Bands

The 2017-2018 MusiCore recordings are here!

Every year, MusiCore Kensington student bands work together to write original songs in whatever style and genre they like. The songwriting process is hard— bands need to collaborate to write music and lyrics that everyone can jam to. As a result, every MusiCore song is as unique as the students that write them!

Then, the bands head to professional studios to record and mix their songs. MusiCore Kensington students spent three days at Miner Street Recordings. Their hard work payed off— it’s hard to put this album down! You can download all eight songs for free on the Rock to the Future Bandcamp page.

MusiCore’s pilot expansion location at Roosevelt Elementary in Germantown also got in on the action. The two student bands recorded at Rittenhouse Soundworks, and even recorded a remix! Their three songs are available to download on the Rock to the Future Bandcamp page. Check them out!

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 the 2018-2019 MusiCore Kensington program.


RTTF House Band Live at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

This June, the RTTF House Band had the opportunity to play a live set at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The RTTF House Band took the stage as part of Hungry for Music’s Instrument Drive & Concert, which collects gently used instrument donations and distributes them to aspiring musicians around the globe. That includes Rock to the Future- Hungry for Music has donated countless guitars, keyboards, drum sets and basses for Rock to the Future students to rock on (a recent donation even included a keytar!).

After an arduous, 9-hour-long drive through the rain with a van packed full of equipment, the RTTF House Band spent the weekend exploring Cleveland and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Students from the Hendrix Music Academy, Campus International, the Salvation Army Youth, and Franklin Preparatory Steel Band also jammed on stage.

The RTTF House Band has been fine-tuning their set list of rock and pop all year during MusiCore, and it shows! They jammed on everything from Whitney Houston to Rage Against the Machine. Check them out:

We are so grateful to be included in Hungry for Music’s Instrument Drive. Not only is it super cool to play at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but the concert was a great send-off for the House Band’s four graduating seniors- Alexus, Jared, Lydia, and Richard. Congrats grads!