Feature photo courtesy of Rock for Kids

Ever seen the movie School of Rock? Well replace those privileged prep students for kids in need and you’ve found the perfect analogy for Rock for Kids, a non-profit organization in Chicago that provides quality music instruction for low income neighborhoods in the city. A product of urban, non-profit community arts programing myself, as well as a former teaching artists, engaged with youth in Chicago’s far south west side, it means a lot me to present this conversation with Kyle Curry, Special Projects Manager, to promote an organization that helps foster the self-esteem, educational supplement and social tools necessary to keep Chicago youth off the street and away from gangs.

By contracting professional music teachers, buying instruments and constructing innovative and effective curriculum, ranging from songwriting, recording, and blues workshops students of Rock for Kids, can take advantage of top notch musical training, at the most vital years of their adolescence. Choir, percussion, and piano lessons are parted at after school programs, community centers, shelters and public schools for at-risk youth in 18 neighborhoods across the city. Providing lessons for over 1000 children, these unique musicians have fostered their talent and scope to perform at venues and festivals including, Millenium Park, Lollapalooza, and the Symphony Center.

The Metro even helped celebrate the organizations 28th Anniversary, releasing a live benefit compilation CD called Metro: The Official Bootleg Series, Volume 1 featuring The Flaming Lips, Guided By Voices, Sleater-Kinney, The Decemberists, Indigo Girls, Alejandro Escovedo, The Sea and Cake, Tortoise, Alkaline Trio, Billy Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlin and Kurt Elling. Proceeds from the sale of this CD will benefit Rock For Kids. To help support the stimulation and growth of Chicago youth, you can buy this star studded album for $20 online under the Audio/Video tab or at the Metro’s in-house shop. You can also support Rock for Kids at the Hideout Block Party on Sept. 24. Purchase tickets here.

I stumbled into Rock for Kids at last years’ Pitchfork merchandise and organizations fair. How did Rock for Kids get involved with Pitchfork? It seems like a perfect pairing.
Pitchfork festival approached us in, I believe, their third year, to feature a booth at the festival. A couple of our annual events are silent auctions, and we’ve brought that to Pitchfork, teaming with the bands playing the festival. They are great to work with, and are very philanthropic. What many attendees might not know is that the festival volunteers are all solicited by local non-profits, and the non-profits receive a donation for the volunteers that the solicit.

Kyle, can you tell us a little about your roll with Rock for Kids and how you got involved with the organization?
I am the special projects manager. Among my responsibilities are helping to coordinate a number of our fundraising events, including our Rock & Roll auction, which is an annual celebrity autograph auction.

How did Rock for Kids form?
Rock For Kids was founded in 1988 as Christmas is For Kids by volunteers in Chicago’s music and entertainment industry who wanted to give back to the community. Initially a grassroots effort to raise money for holiday gifts for homeless children, the charity changed its name and focus in 2000 to Rock For Kids. The founders and volunteers involved in Rock For Kids shared a love of the arts, and music in particular. In response to music budget cuts in the schools, the founders of Rock For Kids decided to change their mission to provide music education to children at risk and in need. Starting with one group of 20 students, Rock For Kids has grown to serve hundreds of children annually.

What exactly is Rock for Kids and communities does it serve?
Rock For Kids provides music education to under-served children in Chicago, sparking creativity and passion, teaching critical thinking, supporting academic achievement and enriching young lives. It serves children in school districts where music programs have been cut and the majority of the student population is living under the poverty level. We contract professional teachers to teach music lessons during in-school hours at Chicago Public Schools, with a curriculum that we have developed.

When and where can people sign their youth up to your program?
Rock For Kids brings music to the children who need it most, during school hours at their elementary schools.

What special events are coming up?
Beyond our annual booth at Pitchfork, Rock For Kids Jr. Board holds monthly fundraising mixers.  Sign up for our mailing list, facebook or twitter, to stay up to date with upcoming events.

How can people get involved or donate?
There are plenty of ways to get involved! You can sign up to be a volunteer on our website, and also sponsor a student with a monthly $30 donation.  We also encourage people who want to support us to start up their own fundraising page at firstgiving.org – they can set their own goals and raise money among their friends. Many people choose to hold informational parties with their group of friends to let them know about Rock For Kids and to raise funds.  Finally, we love it when people who are interested in getting involved come out to our events and introduce themselves!

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