A Chance to Rock Provides Music Education for Children in Foster Care
Prominent local artists join the cause by recording personal testimonies about the benefits of music
By Lainey Gonzales
Photos courtesy of A Chance to Rock
What would the Live Music Capital of the World be without its music educators?
Every rockstar, no matter how talented or famous, began as an eager student. Ask any musician about their childhood music teachers and a smile will immediately appear on their face.
However, it is becoming significantly more difficult for music education to be accessible to every child.
With nationwide budget cuts and the pandemic preventing in-person lessons, many public school music programs have suffered in recent years. Private programs still thrive, but only if students’ families can afford them.
The barrier to music education is especially felt by children experiencing foster care. They often never get to start lessons due to constant relocating and a severe lack of funding.
This is why the folks at Nelda Studios, The Buckman Fund, Austin Angels and Band Aid School of Music have joined together to create A Chance To Rock, a new program in Austin that provides music lessons and instruments to children in foster care.
“There were lots of opportunities facilitated for foster children to participate in sports,” recalls Nelda Studios founder Nelda Buckman. “But I thought, ‘Wait a minute, what about the arts?’”
From there, Buckman reached out to James Mays, director of The Band Aid School of Music.
Mays had originally started A Chance to Rock with one of his own Band Aid students as a free after-school program. With the help of Austin Angels and Nelda Studios, they were able to take the initiative to the next level by extending the invitation to children in foster care.
“Few of us understand what they experience,” says Mays. “They’ve been, in some way, shape or form, abandoned by their parents. They’ve experienced the trauma of loss.”
“The average foster child moves seven times in two years,” adds Buckman. “If they bring music with them, if they bring an instrument with them, that’s something that doesn’t leave them when other things do.”
To raise awareness and funds for the new program, the team has recruited hometown heroes like Kathy Valentine of The Go-Go’s, Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel and Adrian Quesada of Black Pumas to record personal testimonies of how music has helped them, available on the A Chance to Rock website. Hearing these successful artists’ reflect on their own experiences is further evidence of the undeniable and restorative power of music.
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“I heard one story recently of a child in our program, who had experienced an especially difficult day,” says Mays. “The foster parent expected the child to throw the drum set out of the window, but instead, the child sat down to play and found a channel for their emotions, the parent said she hadn’t seen the child happier.”
“The program is brand new, but the initial response has been amazing,” adds Buckman. “We filled every opportunity almost immediately and there are many more children in foster care that want to participate.”
To ensure that every child can get a spot, A Chance to Rock is counting on donations from the community.
“One of the foster moms said to me that she had no idea that their child was so interested in music,” says Nelda. “She said, ‘No one’s offered this before, we didn’t think about music lessons because they never dreamed they’d ever get that chance.’”
“Every child deserves an opportunity like this,” adds Mays. “This is why A Chance to Rock exists.”
Visit achancetorock.org to donate to the organization.
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