Rock to the Future provides student-driven music programs in a safe and supportive environment at no cost for Philadelphia youth. We prepare the next generation for every stage.
Jessica and Josh Craft started Rock to the Future in 2010 with 13 students as a volunteer-based organization with seed funding of $15,000 from Women for Social Innovation. In 2012, RTTF received a one-time gift of $214,000, which allowed for significant expansion. This included the hiring of staff, improving the MusiCore After School program in Kensington, and the creation of a three-year strategic plan.
In order to serve the growing list of interested youth and schools, in 2014 RTTF established Rock*A*Delphia and GuitarStars summer camps, serving grades 3 - 8 and 6 - 12 respectively, and launched MobileMusic, providing more under-resourced schools with weekly music clubs.
In 2016, RTTF created a second strategic plan with the goal of doubling the number of students receiving ongoing instruction. Through a partnership with Roosevelt Elementary School, RTTF launched a second MusiCore After School program in the high-need Germantown area in 2018, which has continued to grow. In 2019, RTTF was 1of 8 specialized organizations to receive funding from the new Department of Human Services out-of-school time funding. RTTF now serves hundreds of youth annually in-school, after school, during the summer, and online at no cost to participants. All programs are free for Philadelphia children and youth and are located in under resourced schools and underserved communities.
Our Community and our Goals
Children and Youth
● Increase musical knowledge and playing proficiency
● Increase social and emotional skills
● Increase executive functioning skills
● Increase in academic confidence
● Increase leadership skills
● Increase in college readiness
● Increase in workplace readiness
● Improved mental health and well being
● Increase in school climate and school pride at the schools we operate
● Increase in family connectedness
● Increase guardian engagement
Our Competitive Advantage
- Governance: Our Board is local, engaged, and committed. Their wide diversity of skills guide the organization to ensure continued effectiveness and growth.
- Staff: The small but knowledgeable and engaged staff provide individual attention and build relationships with children and youth. Program team members receive extensive job training and ongoing professional development related to trauma informed approaches, differentiated learning, cultural competencies, and restorative practices.
- Programs: Unlike some competitors, our programs:
- Are free and located directly in the communities they serve
- Do not require experience or instrument ownership
- Are focused around modern band programming and original song-writing
- Emphasize social and emotional learning and academic confidence through the vehicle of music
- Location: Sites are place-based, specifically located in numerous under-resourced schools and partner locations, providing access to children from the neighborhoods in Kensington and Germantown and youth throughout Philadelphia.
We will enhance each of our following core competencies:
- Programs & Services: We will address the needs of children and youth through our school-based, out-of-school time, summer camp, and online programs by enhancing our programs to further engage students and guardians, improving our evaluation process to better demonstrate impact, and utilize partner relationships.
- Governance: We will continue to strengthen our Board of Directors by enhancing systems to recruit individuals with diverse perspectives, orient, and mentor members to help the Board evolve its fundraising and strategic governance role.
- Human Resources: We will strengthen human resources operations by enhancing systems to recruit, orient, and mentor staff, improving policies, and centralizing human resources under one role.
- Resource Development: We will develop a comprehensive fundraising plan with measurable outcomes that enhances and diversifies funding streams; the plan will include revenue from government, foundations, corporations, individual donors, and special events.
- Financial Management: We will review our budgeting/accounting systems and enhance our budgeting process to allocate reserves.
- Communications: We will raise our organizational profile by developing a marketing plan that segments markets, messages and media, and clearly speaks to Rock to the Future’s identity.
- Facilities: We will improve facilities in both Kensington and Germantown through collaboration with school administrations and local communities to support optimal teaching and learning environments.
- Technology: We will develop a technology plan that includes an inventory of current and future software and hardware needs, as well as protocols to ensure the security and maintenance of all hardware and electronic files/documents.
*COVID Response Summary
Philadelphia schools abruptly closed on March 13th for two weeks, and by early April they were closed indefinitely. Arts and culture programs were halted and shelter in place orders were announced. Philadelphia is the poorest large city in the USA, and even prior to the pandemic inequities were apparent. With the closures, these inequities have rapidly grown, notably education, workforce, technology, and healthcare.
Rock to the Future is determined to continue our mission of helping youth achieve their fullest potential through free music programs. We know the healing power of music and that access to creative opportunities are more important than ever during social distancing. In the rapidly changing environment, we want to ensure we are best serving our communities needs. In March and April, we held personal check-in calls with families to hear their needs and connected them with resources, provided information about technology resources, discussed what types of virtual programs would be the most engaging and beneficial, and what support people needed to participate in virtual programs. We also sent a survey to all families in order to receive anonymous feedback. In April, we engaged our youth directly by holding focus groups and selected a group of students that will provide regular feedback on how we can further support and engage youth during closures. Feedback was enlightening and helped us decide which programs to offer, but also identified additional needs, including instruments, desks, and digital and technology support and access.
During April, we offered contactless instrument drop off for students who did not already have an instrument at home. In mid-April, we launched our virtual programs, providing small group instrumental instruction on guitar, bass, and keyboard, music production and remixes, song analysis, and more. We also introduced live stream Brain Breaks on hip hop, self care, music production, and music creation on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. At the recommendation of our students, we are introducing a virtual book club, Music and Art, music theory, and vocals. We are also providing digital literacy support, including getting Chromebooks from the School District and dropping them off directly for students. We have created a list of resources for self-directed music and educational learning and a dedicated webpage for other information including relief programs, meal locations, absentee voting, and census 2020 completion -- all of which is being shared through social media and our newsletter in addition to being on our website. We are continuing to assess community needs and where we can provide additional support through ongoing check-ins and by participating in community town hall and roundtable sessions.
We anticipate that physical programs will still be closed through the summer, that after school programs may be closed until January 2021, and MobileMusic programs may resume in September. A decision will be made in June and during the summer based on the School District’s decisions. We know that this crisis has the potential to last through 2020. Once physical programs reopen, we anticipate continuing our online programs to reach additional youth.