Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I Didn’t Get a Slushy in the Face, but I Did Hear a Great Band

Believe it or not, science fiction and reality aren’t the only TV programs I enjoy. I also have a TiVo Season Pass to the hit series Glee. And while I don’t consider myself a “Gleek”, I did break down and buy an episode (or three) from Amazon that I missed when the hazy over-the-air radio waves that carry Fox 29 Philadelphia failed to reach my rooftop aerial.

So I like Glee, and I imagine quite a few musicians probably dig the show as well. Especially since I know at least one who does, Marty O’Kane, guitarist for April Smith and the Great Picture Show (maybe you've caught this song during promos for one of my other favorite TV shows, Weeds). A few weeks ago, Marty tweeted this while watching Glee.

What school do these #glee kids go to where the arts programs are so ridiculously well-funded? Bizarro-world High? Oppositeville Prep?

The same thought had crossed my mind, but I decided to roll with it and suspend my disbelief for 44 minutes a week. I mean, music education at the majority of public schools probably consists of an atonal choir and an out-of-step marching band, right?

Of course not. We showcase great music programs on Classroom Close-up, NJ all the time, and my trip to Frank R. Conwell Middle School #4 in Jersey City last week was no exception.

The crew and I were there to film a story about the KYBD Band, a student rock group led by music teacher, Carl Botti. This nine-member ensemble writes and performs original material, not only at school functions, but at off-campus events as well. Their recent gigs include shows for the Special Olympics of New Jersey and a fundraiser for the VH1 Save the Music Foundation where they opened for Grammy Award-winner, Colbie Caillat.

In addition to interviewing the band members, I also had a chance to sit down and speak with Paul Cothran, Executive Director of the VH1 Save the Music Foundation. Paul’s organization recently awarded the school a grant which included a music lab consisting of 16 keyboards and other equipment. We also talked about the importance of music education and the research-backed positive effects it has on student performance.

So while I didn’t witness a waterfall behind stage and a Broadway-caliber mashup of Umbrella and Singing in the Rain led by Gwyneth Paltrow, I did see a pretty amazing group of student performers from a public school that's finding ways to fund a top-notch music program.

The Classroom Close-up, NJ episode with the KYBD Band story will air Monday at 7 pm and on Saturday at 9 am on Feb 28, Mar 5, Apr 4, and Apr 9 on NJN or you can watch online.