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  • Little Kids Rock founder and CEO David Wish high-fives with St. Joseph Elementary School fifth-graders Monday. The nonprofit's Modern Band program is being instituted at Fort Wayne Community Schools. (Photos by Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette)

  • St. Joseph Central Elementary School fifth-graders and music teacher Laura McCoy unveil instruments Monday that were donated by Sweetwater through the Little Kids Rock organization.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 1:00 am

Modern Band is music to FWCS students' ears

District changing its tune

Nonprofit program fills gap in traditional curriculum

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Longtime Fort Wayne Community Schools music teacher Laura McCoy in recent years has tried to build a modern music curriculum – and now such a program is coming not only to her classroom but also to others within the district.

“I cannot be more thrilled,” the St. Joseph Central Elementary School teacher said Monday at a news conference announcing the launch of Modern Band at FWCS.

Modern Band is a school music program offered by the nationwide nonprofit Little Kids Rock, which is dedicated to transforming lives by expanding and innovating music education in schools.

Sweetwater is a national sponsor for Little Kids Rock and facilitated the establishment of the program at Abbett, Maplewood, Price, Bloomingdale, Washington and St. Joseph Central elementary schools.

David Wish, founder and CEO of Little Kids Rock, said Modern Band fills a gap in traditional music programs – orchestra, chorus, marching band and jazz band – by teaching modern music.

“It's part of what makes a music program complete,” he said.

Drums, guitars and ukuleles were unveiled during the announcement.

“This is going to be awesome,” one of the students said.

Sweetwater, Little Kids Rock's preferred instrument provider, has made cash donations to the organization and offers its customers the opportunity to donate online at point of purchase.

Before the news conference, St. Joseph Central students lined the school driveway, chanting “Sweetwater” and holding signs expressing thanks. Inside, more students lined the hallways, creating a loud din that – once in McCoy's classroom – gave way to about a dozen students playing “Uptown Funk.”

“You guys were awesome,” Sweetwater founder and president Chuck Surack told the children.

On the wall behind the students, a Little Kids Rock poster read, “Keeping music where it belongs ... in your school!”

Music is just as important as math and science, Surack said, and the Modern Band program will enhance FWCS' existing curriculum.

“This is taking it to a whole new level,” he said.

FWCS Superintendent Wendy Robinson described the Sweetwater leader as the epitome of giving back.

“I'm constantly surprised by Chuck Surack,” she said.

In an unrelated donation, Surack last month announced he and his wife would give $500,000 and 100 instruments to the FWCS Foundation “b instrumental” program. The Chuck and Lisa Surack and Sweetwater Challenge officially launched a $3 million fundraising campaign for the program, which provides musical instruments to middle school students to use throughout high school.

McCoy, who went to school with Surack, expressed her thanks and said she is in a district that supports music education.

“It's a good time to be a teacher in Fort Wayne Community Schools,” she said.