Little Kids Rock: The Power of Music Transforms One Jersey City Teen

Dec 22, 2010
Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.
Jade has written several songs, including one dedicated to Little Kids Rock. (Photo: Little Kids Rock)

When Jade Adams performs, everything else disappears. The 13-year-old plays guitar, sings with the passion of Billie Holiday and writes her own songs.

You wouldn’t know it by listening to her music, but Jade has pushed past the roadblock of being partially deaf to become a talented musician.

Jade says she “has music in her blood,” but credits Little Kids Rock for giving her a venue to express herself.

Little Kids Rock is an organization that brings music programs into inner-city and high poverty areas. More often than not, when it’s time for school budget cuts, music programs are one of the first things to go.

David Wish, founder of Little Kids Rock, explains how the program works: “We go into a city, train 20 to 40 teachers and provide them with anywhere from 200 to 1000 instruments, and those teachers then run Little Kids Rock programs for their students.”

The former teacher started the program by teaching guitar lessons to his students after school. His method of music education was to “teach kids the kind of music they listen to, the kind they are already emotionally connected to.” 

He also wanted to give them the opportunity to compose their own music and really “use music as a communicative and expressive tool.”

Jade holds her music video DVD and poses for a photo with her brother Kensey and David Wish. (Photo: Little Kids Rock)

Little did he know an idea he had while strumming guitar with his elementary school students would impact so many kids across the country.

Since the organization began in 2002, about 100,000 children have been reached and 1,200 school teachers have been trained.

David knows many of the students in the program personally, and spoke to TakePart about Jade.

“I feel privileged to know her,” he says. “Here’s a young lady who people may think music is not going to be her chosen passion and that’s not so; clearly she’s got a remarkable drive and talent.”

David says Little Kids Rock is really about “removing barriers for people and providing them with opportunities and the joy of being creative.”

Jade agrees and says, “Little Kids Rock has helped me to realize the beauty of music, and I think that’s wonderful.”

When Jade was first introduced to the program in the fifth grade, she saw how transformative making music could be. At the time, she says, “I was 10 years old and going through a bit of distress.”

She confided in her Little Kids Rock teacher and her mother. Both gave her great advice. Jade says, “I thought I should really put this into a song. I wrote it and called it 'Change' because I realized that was what I had to do.”

"When I wrote the song," she says, “The words just came out, they all flowed out.”  

Here is Jade with her Little Kids Rock band members performing “Change.”

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