NAMM Foundation Grantee Spotlight: Music Will
Music Will (formerly Little Kids Rock) is one of 23 music-making programs that received grants from The NAMM Foundation in 2022. Since its inception, and through the generous support of its Members and donors, The NAMM Foundation has provided $201 million to music-making organizations.
Conceived in 1996 by (then) first-grade teacher Dave Wish, Music Will and its approach to music education were born out of a lack of dedicated music education in Wish’s school. As a firm believer that music can change lives, he began offering free after-school music classes that employed his unique and self-developed teaching approach. In 2002, Wish departed the classroom to officially establish Little Kid Rocks and began championing the organization’s mission. After over two decades of engagement, reaching over 1,200,000 students in more than 928 communities, Music Will has become the most comprehensive nonprofit music program in the U.S. public school system.
Music Will teaches students multiple genres, including rock, pop, R&B, Latin, rap, and country, alongside styles already taught in schools, like classical and jazz. The organization’s founding principle is that music education “is a right, not a privilege, and it should reflect the cultures of the students it serves.” Through Wish’s approach, students are introduced to instruments at their first classroom session and encouraged to explore genres that interest them, resulting in countless stories of student success. Systematically, students have flocked to classes using his approach and have gone on to perform concerts, compose their own songs, and even release albums.
As part of its 2022 class of grantees, The NAMM Foundation has committed to continue its decade-long support of Music Will. The grant funds provided are designated to support the nonprofit’s Modern Band Summit, a program that aims to “grow the impact of modern band across the country.” This goal is accomplished by encouraging teachers to connect, network, and source from the community they know and love and to offer educators the same quality, peer-led professional development for which it is known. Modern Band Summit focuses on themes of diversity, equity and inclusion, music technology, and entering a changing educational/student landscape.
First introduced in 2011 and quickly embraced by public schools, Music Will’s Modern Band Summit has demonstrated that students, including those who had never signed up for a music class, would flock to the program.
Of the program, Wish, says, “Music Will has brought the power of music education to over 1,200,000 students in 928 communities across 50 states over the past 20 years. We have our hearts set on unleashing students’ creativity by remaining student-directed, highly inclusive, and culturally relevant. By focusing our programs on genres that students already know and love, we can truly connect with students. It is that initial connection that leads to great creativity and self-expression.”
Wish continues, “We are grateful to our partners at The NAMM Foundation for consistently supporting our mission. Together, we bring more music to more schools and directly affect the lives of more students. Every single student deserves access to music education, and we hope to reach our next million in five years.”
After a decade of success, the program has been adopted into the curriculum of over 70 colleges and universities. In 2020, California’s State Department of Education incorporated modern band into its Arts Framework, nothing “Modern band students can see themselves reflected in the curriculum and are culturally validated as the music is representative of their own identity.” (Editor’s Note: The full California Arts Framework is available for download and review here.)
To learn more about Music Will and its complete offering of programs, please visit https://musicwill.org/, and for the entire list of 2022 NAMM Foundation grantee organizations, please visit https://www.nammfoundation.org/articles/2022-09-12/namm-foundation-announces-482500-grants-23-music-making-programs.
Donations to support The NAMM Foundation and its mission to advance active participation in music-making across the lifespan can be made at https://www.nammfoundation.org/donate.