On April 9, Todd Rundgren visited the MusicGarage.Org program in Salt Lake City. This performance-based instruction program’s staff have served over 1,000 Utah youth and staged some 30 youth rock band concerts per year since 2009.
Director Steve Auerbach says, “We believe that by giving youth performing opportunities, they step-up their efforts; surprising themselves, their families and the community-at-large. Unlike ‘rock schools’, we support musicians in the community who teach lessons by serving as an ‘add-on’ service to private lessons that provides students with the highly-motivating goal of performance.”
MusicGarage.Org assists low-income students with scholarships, in cooperation with the Utah Arts Alliance
(UAA). More than 13% of MusicGarage.Org enrollments are funded by the UAA’s scholarship program to allow for a sliding fee scale.
On November 14, Todd and Michele Rundgren took time out of their busy touring schedule to visit to two Chicago Public High Schools: UIC College Prep and Lane Technical High School.
University of Illinois Chicago College Prep. This is one of the three schools whose students are subjects of the brain testing being done at the Auditory Neuroscience Lab at Northwestern University. Todd was visibly moved as he watched the one of the classes play three classical pieces, remarking how well they performed together as an ensemble.
He answered the students’ questions on a wide range of subjects for about 30 minutes, ranging from the state of pop music today, to the value of learning music, to the history of rock. UICCP Music Director Steve Sanders presented Todd and Michele with school tshirts, and invited Todd to autograph the rehearsal room wall.
The Spirit of Harmony Foundation presented the program with Sibelius Music notation software, with Todd stating that it was the industry standard. The Foundation also presented a field recording device and a ProSeries complete set of intermediate-level educational dvds. Students enthusiastically had photos taken with Todd and asked him for autographs.
Lane Technical College Prep. The Music Department of Lane Tech raised funds from private and corporate sponsors to refurbish a space that originally served as an aviation workshop and later as an automotive shop to a large rehearsal space and music engineering studio complex. Todd visited the various studios and was extremely impressed by the resources available to the students. Click here for an article about the program.
An advanced guitar class was in progress during the visit and he marveled at it being “an army of guitars”. Todd gave an impromptu guitar demonstration to the students, talking about the importance of practice. He said that guitar playing doesn’t really become fun until a person’s fingers are sufficiently calloused, and that is a great reason to keep practicing all the time.
The Foundation presented the Music Department with a ProSeries complete set of intermediate-level educational dvds. Our Foundation’s researcher, Emily Finchum, who is currently refining our advocacy program, teaches physics at Lane Tech.
For more photos, please click here.
On October 30, 2014, for the Spirit of Harmony Foundation, Todd Rundgren visited St. Francis de Sales School in Philadelphia, PA. St. Francis de Sales (located in Southwest Philadelphia) is home to Play On, Philly! (POP).
Play On, Philly! is an innovative musical program where elementary students through Grade 8 practice after school from 10-15 hours a week. These students perform various shows and recitals, and have opened for many musical acts at various Philadelphia venues. Todd met Stanford Thompson (Founder and Artistic Director for Play On, Philly!) and discussed the children’s recent accomplishments, goals and vision for the programs’ development.
During the students’ musical break, the group of 100+ children plus many of the POP’s staff listened to Todd relate to them that the journey they’re beginning may be similar to his, as he was from the Philadelphia area like them. Since he had their attention, he asked them if they heard of him (not many had); he immediately allowed them to answer in the positive with the follow-up if they heard of the Beatles. He then added he’s been touring around the world with one of those Beatles for three years now.
Todd added the subtle reminder to the youngsters that this music enhancement project may be something they can excel at, while performing and giving them the opportunity to visit fancy places. The children then asked Todd questions about what it’s like to go all over the world, and how do you know what you want to do next. His answers relayed the theme that music tends to allow one to find their own ways of expression; so these practice sessions are all going to worth it to them in time.
The children and staff applauded the fact they witnessed a real rock music star at their school, and were grateful that Todd took time on his day without a gig to visit them. Many of these young students only had a passing wonderment about what musical instruments are about, but most thrive in their joyful discovery and stay in the program every year. For more photos, please click here. (Report by Jim Donato)
Nearly 200 Todd fans gathered in central California for the Mythic Pacific Retreat in Cambria, and August 20 was a Theme Day celebrating Music Education.
Coast Union High School Band, the local high school band, paid a visit to camp and played several songs including Bang the Drum and Be Nice to Me, accompanied by Spirit of Harmony kazoos being played by the audience. Todd presented the band with a check to support their music library, but it was noteworthy that theirs was the first program support check issued by the Foundation.
For more photos, please click here.
On April 16 on a day off from his concert tour, Todd surprised the children of Make Music NOLA with a visit, continuing our longstanding relationship with the organization. On hearing them perform, he said, “the band has gotten tighter since the last time I heard them.”
Make Music NOLA (MMN) is a rapidly growing string program in New Orleans 9th Ward and Central City. Offering instruction on violin, viola, cello, and bass; our students attend classes four days a week after school, participate in workshops with guest artists, and perform up to eight community based concerts a year. Inspired by El Sistema and the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra System, Make Music NOLA, originally began in a converted Walgreens in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward in 2011 with just five students.
Over the last three years, the program has grown to over sixty students in four different schools throughout the city. This summer, we started a mentoring program and trained four middle school and high school students to work with our younger kids. This year, they will serve as mentors and teaching assistants, and in return earn private lessons. This fall, MMN will start its first brass program in East New Orleans. Look out for our trumpets and trombones.
Rock musician Todd Rundgren, best known for his 1972 hit “Hello It’s Me,” visited Northwestern University for a lively discussion with neuroscientist Nina Kraus about how music shapes the nervous system and improves communication skills.
Kraus, the Hugh Knowles Professor of Neurobiology, Physiology and Communication Sciences at Northwestern’s School of Communication, hosted the April 1 event in the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, which she directs. Rundgren, a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and record producer, toured the lab, meeting a young musician who had participated in previous studies. Later he underwent testing to demonstrate the electric activity generated by a musician’s brain.
“Hello It’s Me” and other best-known songs Rundgren wrote, such as “I Saw the Light” and “Bang the Drum All Day,” are in regular rotation on classic rock radio. Rundgren also has produced scores of hit records, including Meat Loaf’s “Bat out of Hell,” which became one of the best sellers of the 1970s. The scholar and the artist found common ground in a shared love of music and its effects on learning. They talked in detail about Kraus’ and others’ research exploring how music affects humans across the lifespan, especially by enhancing memory and the ability to understand speech in noise.
“This research makes a strong case for music education from a scientific perspective,” Rundgren said. “We frequently see studies about the ways in which making music can influence a student socially and academically — and obviously artistically — but this data involving brain development adds compelling evidence to support the importance of bringing music to all students.” The event highlighted the lab’s school-based neuroeducational projects, with an emphasis on the biological impact of music education in Chicago high schools and the Harmony Project, a nonprofit organization that provides free music instruction to children from Los Angeles gang-reduction zones. Rundgren recently founded Spirit of Harmony Foundation to promote music education in public schools.
“What made the visit extraordinary was our easy interaction over signals,” Kraus said. “Todd understands the nuances of sound waves. So we were able to speak in considerable detail about how sound signals are transcribed by the nervous system into the electrical voltages which represent sounds in the brain.” The Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory studies the biology of auditory learning with the goal of harnessing neuroplasticity to improve human communication in society.
For more photos, please click here.
In the months leading up to “Toddstock II v.65”, fans suggested that while in Louisiana, the gathering community undertake a “give back” project to help an area still recovering from Hurricane Katrina 5 years earlier. Many different types of charitable groups were researched and interviewed, but the search ended when we discovered the Youth Orchestra of the Lower Ninth Ward (now Make Music NOLA).
Make Music NOLA offers a daily after-school program, which has grown from five elementary school students to an enrollment of more than 60, providing music education as well as homework tutoring and healthy snacks. Staffed by area musicians and enthusiastic college students, the organization’s zeal and professionalism won the hearts of the Toddstock attendees, who bussed in for a site visit on June 19, 2013. With alacrity and love, donations and raffles, $10,000 was raised from the fan community, making MMN the first program funded by the Spirit of Harmony Foundation.
Working with Laura Patterson the Executive Director of The Youth Orchestra, approximately 170 Todd fans from around the world, Todd and his family, and families of many of the Orchestra members, treated the group to a short performance with approximately 20 children from kindergarten to about 12 years old playing violins, cellos, and double basses. The visit was filled with “firsts”: while they have performed in front of larger audiences, this was the first time that they had such a large audience come to their school to hear them play. Additionally, thru the generosity of “Rundgren Radio” a fan run internet radio show, the kids and teachers were all dressed in the same “uniform”–Todd T-shirts. They performed a few songs, however the big surprise for Todd and everyone in attendance was a string arrangement of Todd’s “Bang The Drum All Day”.
Upon completion of the performance, Todd congratulated the band on “a stellar performance” and then presented a giant check in the amount of $10,000, the results of the fans’ efforts and a birthday gift of sorts to Todd. Laura and her staff brought out a giant cake to acknowledge Todd’s 65th birthday, and everyone in attendance sang happy birthday, Todd was visibly moved. The kids were of course elated to have cake!
Later that evening, while having dinner in the French Quarter, Todd initiated a discussion about how we, as a community, might be able to create more of these “feel good” moments, while supporting music education. It was at that point that the seeds of The Spirit of Harmony were planted.
An additional $5500 was raised for the Youth Orchestra at an online and live auction held in September 2013 in Akron, Ohio.