Gibson is bankrupt, Guitar Center isn't far behind. Lots of talk lately about how kids aren't playing guitar like they used to because we don't have guitar icons like we did back in the day. Many adults are saying now that kids don't have the appreciation for quality music that they once did. Older generations constantly feel that way about the music that comes after them, this is a story that has long been told. What is different now is arts and music education has been on a consistent decline for over 30 years.
When I first opened the Lab I made an effort to reach out to local music teachers to get a feel for the programs happening in my area. There was a disturbing pattern I was noticing. Music, Art & Drama teachers being shared by various schools. Not only are music and arts programs underfunded, the teachers are going to different schools a couple days a week. We are giving art and music classes a low priority and spreading the teachers that care way too thin. This has been going on since before I was even in school (and it's been a bit since that happened).
Laura Staples, jamming on Drums at our Stitch N' B*tch/Girl Jam last month she's a musician and a high school teacher as well.
What do we expect to happen to music when we teach kids that it's not valuable? I'm witnessing adults shaking their heads like the kids are to blame, when we are definitely more at fault. The arts education portion of our school systems have been on a steady decline since the at least the 80s. Really the whole of education, but being that the arts programs were always on the bottom of the list of priorities now it's in a particularly bad place. I remember VH1 working to "Save the Music" in the 90s and they are still at it (kudos and thank you, VH1)! When I talk to arts and music teachers in the school system today it's no secret they are overworked and underpaid. All of them are spending their own $$$ to get their kids what they need. How did we end up here?
Rosemary Stanley playing bass at the Stitch N' B*tch/Girl Jam last month.
A big part of this rift is American culture. There is a separation that exists between musician and person. This is not the case in many other countries where everyone is encouraged to join in. We often have a level of perfectionism that restricts our confidence and stifles our creativity. While I haven't traveled outside the country (yet), numerous friends have told me that the've witnessed various Latin, African, and European countries experiencing music as a part of everyday life. When you view music making and listening a norm, you encourage everyone around you to be active participants, including the kids. This inclusive and encouraging culture is one that Pachyderm is built on.
Another contributing factor to the decline of music and arts education in the USA is sports programs being valued over the arts. Boys are highly praised for having a ball in their hands and girls pushed to cheer them on... or play their own less popular sports... this has had a significant impact on the way kids view playing music as well. There is nothing wrong with these activities, I do believe that if arts and music programs had the level of support that sports programs do, children would be better prepared for adult life and the general population would be happier or at the very least more equipped to cope with their emotions and better able to connect with others.
My 4 year old daughter, Cadence, knows what's up. Her favorite bands are some of the ones listed below.
Is American music on the decline? Guess what?! Rock isn't dead, punk isn't either. There are still so many bands out there doing it right you just might have to dig a little harder to find them. The face of music has changed, the industry is different that's for sure. Technology has evolved, naturally so has music. Something that is often cited when talking about kids' disinterest in music. Now anyone can download some software and record on their laptop, their phones even. If anything though, technology is making music even more accessible. Have you seen the KORG Gadget for Nintendo Switch?! It's pretty badass!
So Nintendo is doing it's part getting kids excited about playing music, are you? Ultimately, the best way to save the music is to instill a love for it in the youth by actively participating in it yourself and leading by example!
Amy Jane Williams playing her uke at the Stitch N' B*tch/Girl Jam last month.
Despite all the roadblocks along the way... The kids are going to be alright! While there's a lot of crap music out there, there's plenty of gold nuggets (maybe that wasn't the best metaphor but you know what I mean). You just have to dig! I'd love to check out what you are listening to and instigate some conversation around this topic. Please comment below with some bands or youtube links of music that has been released in the past 5 years! Let's share and support the people that are making the music happen. Feel free to post your own personal music endeavors.
Esperanza Spalding is not only an amazing musician, she is a professor at Harvard and Berklee. Her resume is awe-inspiring to say the least. Her music is just as jaw dropping.
Some of my top picks are: Esperanza Spalding, St. Vincent, Primus (yes they are still creating new tunes), Legend of the Seagullmen, Thundercat, Kamasi Washington, Savages, Warpaint, that newish NIN EP was freaking awesome too.
April 2018 Lady Rockstars: Patucos Band of Gypsies
Want to help shift the culture? Be a musician! You can... seriously. It's not as difficult as you may think. Come take a lesson or 10 from me, Eric or Pam! You can also come to the Girl Jam (if you identify as such) or do Lady Rockstars. Teens can pre-register now for the Secret Sound Society. ANYONE is capable of creating music.
Looking forward to making music with you and seeing your band picks! Thanks for reading!
PS: If you have no idea what new stuff is kickin' I encourage you to go down the KEXP and Tiny Desk Concert rabbit hole on YouTube. Fantastic content.