Matt-Gerry_webLast year, our school district set off to do something new and incredibly special. Our Education Foundation (who provided my school with our classroom set of guitars) decided to organize a collaboration to serve as a fundraiser for the foundation’s endowment. The idea was to bring in a local rock band to spend a week working with our music students to put on a huge rock concert.The band, Joe’s Pet Project, are all Salina natives who have now spread out across the country. The event was named, 305 Live! (after our school district, USD305).There was a huge amount of planning involved the first year, picking songs and collaborating back and forth with the band via e-mail before their arrival the week of the show. Each teacher helped select songs that were suitable for their student’s skill level and for the band. The show highlighted musicians across all disciplines in our district including solo vocalists, the choir, strings, horn sections, and guitar classes. In all, more than 300 students from across the district participated.In addition, when the band arrived the week of the show, they asked each school to send 10 students to take part in a songwriting workshop. Both the middle school and high school students had a day where the band helped guide them through the process of writing a song. At the end of the workshop both groups had written a complete song that was then performed on the concert.The first year was a huge success from the standpoint of the finished product. The concert was incredible, and received lots of positive feedback. Attendance and financial aspects of the show however proved to be kind of disappointing. We were hearing from a lot of people who attended the show that they wanted the concert to become a regular event. After much discussion, we decided that the low attendance was due to the fact that it was the first time we had tried 305Live!, and that we would try again the next year.When the second year rolled around, we were much wiser and had learned many lessons from our first go around. First, we decided to double the amount of stage time for the students. The first year, JPP played an entire set by themselves before the students took the stage. The second, students were involved in every song of the concert. Word of mouth from the audience members who attended the first year spread about the incredible event, and the attendance was through the roof for the second. The music faculty of the school district formed a faculty band and performed one number on the concert as well. From all aspects, the concert in 2013 exceeded everyone’s expectations, and we now have a formula that we can work from in the future.

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – 305Live!, 2012

The experience for all the students involved was invaluable. My guitar students walked away different, with a new energy and purpose. My goal teaching guitar class has always been to train up players that will continue to play after they leave class. After this experience I feel the chances of that occurring are even greater.

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