Steven Van Zandt To Tell The History Of Rock And Roll

GRAMMY winner's Rock and Roll Forever Foundation partners with GRAMMY Museum to offer Web-based music history curriculum to middle schools and high schools
  • Photo: Bryan Bedder/
    Steven Van Zandt
  • Photo: Bryan Bedder/
    Bob Santelli, Steven Van Zandt and Warren Zanes
April 30, 2013 -- 11:15 am PDT

GRAMMY winner Steven Van Zandt's Rock and Roll Forever Foundation has partnered with the GRAMMY Museum to present Rock and Roll: An American Story, an interdisciplinary middle and high school curriculum that explores rock and roll from its roots in blues, country, gospel, and R&B, to its latest incarnations today. Additionally, the curriculum explores the influence of rock and roll on society and social movements, politics, American culture, and history over the last seven decades.

The media-rich, online curriculum, which meets Common Core State Standards, will launch this fall with 100 lesson plans available at no cost to schools.

"The reasons for this project are many, obviously. But as I looked into it, I saw one word recur in discussions of the drop-out epidemic: 'engagement,'" said Van Zandt during a recent press conference at New York University.

"At-risk students are very often the students who do not feel engaged in school. Put another way, they are not seeing how the classroom relates to their lives. I met an educator — in my case, a librarian — who saw my interest in Bob Dylan. She encouraged me to make connections between Dylan's songs and the world of literature. She helped me see that 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' was part of a cultural legacy that included the Beats, and that the Beats were part of a story that included the very youth culture that was springing up around me. Suddenly, the classroom came alive for me. I was engaged. Learning related to my life."  

"The lessons aren't just about rock and roll music, but are truly interdisciplinary, tapping into culture, politics and society," said Warren Zanes, executive director of the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation. "One lesson, for example, uses Elvis Presley's first single, 'That's All Right,' to explore the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court case."

"Rock and Roll is experienced not simply as a sound culture, but as a cinematic and televisual culture, a literary culture, a fashion culture, a political culture, a dance culture, and more," said Bob Santelli, Executive Director of the GRAMMY Museum. "I've worked on a number of music-based education programs, but Rock and Roll: An American Story is a special one. I think it is positioned to do something very significant in broadening the base of how music is approached in schools."

In conjunction with NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, the foundation will offer a week-long teacher institute this summer on the NYU campus to train educators on how to use the curriculum in the classroom. In addition, the foundation will join with the GRAMMY Museum to provide teacher training events across the country after the curriculum launches in the fall.

The program is currently being piloted in four NYU Steinhardt partner schools in New York: Edward R. Murrow High School, Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, the Institute for Collaborative Education Middle School in the Bronx, and MS 223, the Laboratory School of Finance and Technology. The pilot phase will continue over the next two years in New York and New Jersey schools.

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