SCORE program makes schools rock

Willard Middle School to offer students introductory music lessons, will focus on rock music

Dean Ignacio/Staff

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SCORE. The word can mean success. It can be the written copy of a musical composition. And starting April 12, the word will refer to the SCORE Berkeley program that is to engage students at Willard Middle School and — the program’s directors hope — enrich their lives.

The concept driving the program is straightforward: introductory music lessons for one hour every Friday after school, over the course of eight weeks. SCORE will pair middle school students with volunteer instructors in a combination of group and individual sessions that teach basic guitar, piano, bass and drums, with a focus on the former two. “We’re going to start off with very basic chords and move on to some scales,” said music director Danny McCarty, “and hopefully by the end of the project, they’ll all be able to play a song together in unison like a band might do.”

The curriculum is intentionally loose in order to allow each student to learn at his or her own pace. “We just want them to enjoy what they’re doing and not have any pressures of trying to fulfill a certain deadline or goal,” McCarty said. At the end of the eight weeks, students will hold a concert to showcase their new musical talents.

Although Berkeley Unified School District already has afterschool music programs, SCORE is unique in that its curriculum will be centered on rock ‘n’ roll music. The directors aim to actively and closely engage students. Although he finds all music education “very respectable,” SCORE Director Taylor Freeman seeks to fill a gap in the district’s current musical education by teaching the rock genre. “Most school music programs revolve around classical, jazz or contemporary music,” agreed Jill Coffey, BPEF school volunteers director. “So the opportunity to play in a band like group is unique in BUSD — especially for middle schoolers.”

The program also emphasizes that its instructors are to serve as role models for the children. For that reason, though there are no specific standards of musical ability required to volunteer with the program, SCORE is currently only accepting college students for its instructor positions, recruiting at universities like UC Berkeley. According to Freeman, the program hopes to bring in more tutors for individual instruction.

“We want to find people who can build face value with the students, — really come in and mentor them so they develop a relationship rather than have different people come in every time,” Freeman said. His hope is that students will engage in these mentorships and be inspired to achieve and excel in academics. Coffey also discussed how student mentors might act as a “support system (to) encourage attendance and participation” in a confusing early-adolescent environment.

In addition to teaching music in closer settings, SCORE seeks to provide music lessons to all students regardless of financial situation. “We don’t want any kid to be limited,” Freeman said. “The baseline goal is to give kids music instruction and mentorship totally free of charge, no matter their level of privilege.” He identified availability and accessibility as some of the program’s top priorities, with the hope that all students will have equal opportunity to learn music. To make this possible, the program is holding an ongoing instrument drive, collecting guitars, basses, keyboards and drums.

At the heart of SCORE is a desire to engage and inspire students. Freeman and McCarty, drawing from personal experience, consider music a vital tool in the transition through adolescence. “I grew up playing music … and it’s what really inspired me to go to school,” Freeman said. “I wasn’t a super strong student when I was young — it was music.” Similarly, McCarty hopes to share the knowledge he has acquired through eight years of experience as a guitarist.

Depending on the success of the eight-week program, SCORE may just be the first stepping stone to a greater number of programs at other schools. But for now, the directors are simply excited about the prospect of reaching out to the community and effecting positive change for middle school students. “I think the main focus is just being a force of good,” Freeman said. “The music is the thing that’s the vehicle for all this.”

Contact Josephine Yang at [email protected].