Guest Column – The Arts Take Center Stage in California!

Randa Schmalfeld, Principal – Ladera Vista Junior High School of the Arts
Fullerton, California

As a nationally-recognized Exemplary School of the Arts, our staff views the arts as a springboard through which students discover and define themselves. Students at Ladera Vista Junior High School of the Arts participate in an arts-integrated approach to learning all academic content, and make meaningful learning connections through the arts. In addition, our school offers a full compliment of arts-based electives, with 35 classes in visual, performing, and digital arts. Teachers at Ladera Vista are always looking for new ways to incorporate the arts into their classrooms, and last year Ladera Vista Teacher, Andrea Calvo, began using lessons from the TeachRock collections in her classroom with fantastic results.

As she became familiar with TeachRock, Andrea was convinced that other teachers on our campus would appreciate learning more and could incorporate TeachRock lessons into their classrooms. She reached out to TeachRock and as a result brought Chris Tuffi, Christine Nick, and their team to Ladera Vista for a day of Staff Development. Our teachers were inspired by the relevant, cross-curricular lessons they presented.  At the end of the day, Chris invited Andrea and me to an upcoming industry event with Steven VanZandt and his band. Of course we said yes!

Our evening in Hollywood surpassed our wildest dreams. We arrived at The Roxy and were given the VIP treatment. It was fantastic to see Steven and his band play in such an intimate setting and we were amazed when he brought Lowell “Banana” Levinger, of the Youngbloods, to the stage! After his set, Steven was joined by a local DJ from KLOS for a one on one interview. We were spellbound as Steven talked about his life’s journey and his perspective on performing, acting, and supporting arts education. What a fascinating  man he is, and what a cool life he has led. Steven VanZandt is a real Renaissance Man, the Leonardo D’Vinci of our times! As educators, we feel so fortunate to have the support of such an important industry leader and we are honored to share his passion for music in education. We will long remember that very special night.

Currently our school is planning for a large scale project inspired by our work with the TeachRock Team. We will be documenting our city’s rich Rock and Roll History through a Sonic Highways video project. Fullerton is home to Fender Guitars, and many great bands have risen from our community. Many bands such as The Middle Class, The Adolescents, and Social Distortion have roots in our school. It will be a fun story to tell and a story worth sharing. We are  thankful to the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation for inspiring and supporting our work and we look forward to our continued collaboration!