By Andy Hinds, Friends of Roosevelt Foundation Board
I have exactly one memory from 7th grade music class: being called to the carpet for clowning on the song our choir was preparing for a recital. I was mocking the song partially because I couldn’t hit the notes, but mostly because I felt like I would literally die if I sincerely tried to, given the material. Our teacher had assigned us the schlockiest song ever, “You Light up my Life,” popularized by Debbie Boone, which probably hastened my transformation into an angry 8th grade punk rocker. I never got a chance to thank her for that.
These days, when I help my twins with their 6th grade music homework, they ask for suggestions on what song goes best with a movie car chase (“Ace of Spades” obviously), what I think about the synthesizer track on their latest electronic music composition or which pop song to add to their class playlist. They are also playing traditional instruments, learning music theory, getting exposed to jazz legends like Dave Brubeck, and going on “virtual field trips” to presentations by international music organizations. And this is all happening while the pandemic is keeping kids physically isolated from their peers, teachers and potential music collaborators.
The Music Program at Roosevelt International Middle School (adjacent to Elephant Odyssey at the San Diego Zoo) was just coming into its own when COVID cancelled all the nice things.
Nathan Elias-Kocivar, the 30-year-old director of the program, who started his music education career by substitute teaching to supplement his income as a tenor sax and keyboard player, analyzed the musical needs of the community, came up with a plan, and was implementing it when the pandemic struck…