Between 2000 and 2003, my job would take me to Anaheim and Nashville twice a year to attend the NAMM shows. The NAMM Show is one of the largest music product trade shows in the world. For a musician, it’s like being a kid in the largest candy store you can possibly imagine. I saw superbly crafted instruments, incredible new technology and I met amazing musicians like Victor Wooten, Alan Parsons and Bill Bruford to name but a few.
While all of those things were very cool, what is forever etched in my mind is meeting David Wish, an inspired man who cared enough to make a difference.
At the 2002 NAMM show in Anaheim, I was walking the halls of the second floor looking for companies that might have a need for our fiber-optic based touch pads.
As I was walking past one of the smaller booths, an energetic and cheerful man wearing a huge red and white top hat approached me. His simple booth had a round logo with the slogan Little Kids Rock.
As this was a product show, I imagined they must have been selling some kind of software or books aimed at the younger market. I stopped and asked him what his company did. Smiling broadly, he invited me into his humble booth, introduced himself and began to tell me all about his organization and its vision to provide the students of under-served schools with free musical instruments and instruction. Afterwards, David asked if I would pose for a photograph with himself and Jon E. Gee who plays bass with John Mellencamp. Of course, I said yes!
Little Kids Rock began in In 1996 when David, then an elementary school teacher, grew frustrated with his school’s lack of funding for music education. He decided to take it upon himself to ensure his kids got a chance to explore music, so he began offering an after-school guitar class to interested students. The classes became wildly popular. As more kids sought to enroll, he decided to take the program national.
In 2002, with initial support from musical luminaries BB King and John Lee Hooker, Little Kids Rock was born. What began as an informal project led by one school teacher and a handful of volunteers has since evolved into a nationally recognized not-for-profit organization that, according to a recent email from David, will reach 50,000 low income kids this year.
I have only met David Wish once. Since then, I have spoken to him once on the phone and we have exchanged eight or nine emails. While I do not know him very well, what I do know is that this is a man filled with purpose, light and love. He is responsive, and always demonstrates a humble heart. Not once have I heard him say, “I did this.” Rather, it’s always about Little Kids Rock and recognizing the efforts and contributions of others.
Little Kids Rock is the realization of a vision with an outward focus to help, and bring joy into the lives of those who so desperately need it. The organization believes that learning to play a musical instrument can transform kids’ lives, and inspire the creativity and confidence that are critical to success — not only in school but in life.
David, what you and Little Kids Rock have accomplished is truly inspirational. I cannot even begin to imagine the many challenges and hardships you and your team have faced in the pursuit of your vision. From my heart to you and your amazing team — thank you for what you have done. Best wishes to you all as you move forward with Little Kids Rock!
This article was first published on July 11, 2009 at synaptici.com. Since then, Little Kids Rock have made some great strides forward. On December 7th, 2009, the Dr. Phil Foundation launched Little Kids Rock Across America with a $500,000 donation designed to restore, revitalize and enhance musical programs in schools in 10 cities across the country. David made an appearance on Dr. Phil’s show.
David recently told me that “Little Kids Rock are indeed now reaching over 50,000 kids, a huge milestone for us! The sad thing is that music programs are all under the knife of the budget cutters now in what seems to be the worst time for music education in our nation’s history. Little Kids Rock is bucking the trend by expanding our services and we anticipate reaching an additional 15,000 – 20,000 kids by the end of this school year. That will be awesome!”
Little Kids Rock continues to receive support from many mainstream musicians. You can read their news index here.
The Dr. Phil Foundation – “Little Kids Rock Across America” – $500,000 donation
All Photos © Little Kids Rock