The Times They Are A-Changin’

Mike Lawson • Commentary • August 14, 2015

Share This:

It was a very busy month for me, starting out with a trip to Ft. Collins, CO to attend the Little Kids Rock “Rockfest” events, immediately followed by the Summer NAMM Show here in Nashville, TN. I learned a lot about a new movement in school music education, which David Wish, founder of Little Kids Rock, has called “Modern Band.” Simply put, Modern Band is a curriculum for school music band programs that go well outside the traditional marching, concert, and jazz band worlds, and focuses on what our NAMM-show-crowd would call the “combo” world of instrumentation. Guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, turntables, technology, and even vocals, to teach students how to play, work together, and perform modern, popular music. An upcoming feature on this movement is in the works, which will provide much more detail on what’s going on with what I genuinely believe I can call a “movement” in the evolution of school music programs. Attending this event immediately prior to attending the Summer NAMM show gave me a lot to consider.

Over the past decade or so, we’ve seen a massive increase in school music programs offering guitar lessons alongside traditional band and orchestra programs. Along those lines, we’ve seen manufacturers create new lines of student model guitars to fill the needs of those programs. We haven’t seen a massive shift toward “combo” band programs, though, if Little Kids Rock has their way, this is all going to change. I couldn’t help but walk around the summer show and look at many of the exhibitors in a whole new light with regards to how their marketing and sales strategies might be impacted, how their new product development might change. That is, if we see a “Modern Band” program become the norm in schools for those kids who were never, ever going to join the traditional music programs which “Modern Band” is designed to co-exist with, side-by-side, often taught now by the same directors. NAMM’s summer show is traditionally more of a “combo” show, heavy on guitars, drums, keyboards, and while certainly utilized by makers of traditional band and orchestra instruments, if you ask somebody in the music products industry about Summer NAMM, they’ll likely tell you it’s more of a “guitar show.”

If schools become a regular training ground for kids playing keyboards, guitars, bass, drum kits (vs. band and orchestra drums), along with integration of technology old (turntables) and new (computer instruments, recording, etc.), how will the landscape change for manufacturers of products, what new lines will they create to fill these needs, and more importantly, how will their involvement in this burgeoning market help support music in schools overall? The development of new curriculum-based music programs with combo instruments is long overdue as a norm in music education. While schools here and there around the country have done these kinds of things, or held an after school club for them, as an integrated part of the curriculum, the idea of a “Modern Band” program has not become the norm, but I’m willing to bet that it soon will. The excitement of these teachers from literally all over the USA was infectious. The fired-up, near cult-like exuberance of hundreds of teachers who paid their own way to go a gathering of like-minded music teachers at the Little Kids Rock Rockfest was enough to convince me that it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing school music programs rapidly evolve in front of us. And when that time comes, the music products industry is going to respond heavily to fill those schools with quality products for the programs, and along with that insurgence of instruments, will come an influx of other kinds of tangible support for school music in general.


The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!