Hamilton County Schools are expanding and innovating their music program thanks to one of the city’s most notable citizens. Eight-time Grammy award-winning musical artist Usher and his Chattanooga based Nancy Lackey Community Education Fund are working with Little Kids Rock to bring its music education program to 19 city schools, which is already reaching thousands of K-12 students in Chattanooga.
“I am proud to support Little Kids Rock bringing music education to kids in my hometown,” said Usher. “I’ve had numerous conversations with teachers who’ve really found that way to really connect with kids by way of understanding their music; by understanding what type of music and cultures these kids come from.”
Officials said as public school students return to in-person learning, many are struggling after having experienced social and emotional trauma due to an extended period of isolation from their peers. Music educators are stepping up as emotional first responders by providing a much needed creative outlet. However, music programs in under-resourced school districts continue to struggle as music programs have been decimated.
Little Kids Rock is a nationally renowned nonprofit organization that has donated millions of dollars of musical instruments, trained thousands of music teachers, and served more than a million K-12 students in 49 states since 2002. Their approach focuses on helping schools build music programs that are culturally responsive and relevant to their students.
“I started Little Kids Rock when I was a school teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area and noticed that there were not enough resources for the schools to offer robust, engaging music programs,” said Little Kids Rock CEO David Wish. “I am so inspired by Usher’s commitment to make an impact in his hometown, which nurtured his own musical beginnings.”
In 2019, Usher helped raise the funding for Little Kids Rock to bring its nationally renowned music program to the city where he grew up. He joined Little Kids Rock at their annual Benefit in NYC and was joined by other musical luminaries and music education advocates including Wiz Khalifa, Warren Haynes, Steve Miller, Trombone Shorty and Jon Secada.
Using the momentum of this event, Usher and Little Kids Rock set out to launch modern band music programs in Chattanooga in 2020, but plans were delayed by COVID-19. In 2021, Hamilton County Schools’ music teachers have participated in two virtual professional development training sessions, and they are already excited to grow their music programs and get their students performing in the community.
"I believe that music brings us all together," said Usher. "It ties everything up in a way that nothing else does. As an expressive tool you learn about the culture of the places you come from, and that becomes something of pride.”
Hamilton County School Recipients: East Hamilton Middle School; Woodmore Elementary; Spring Creek Elementary; Red Bank High School; Clifton Hills Elementary School; Normal Park Museum Magnet School; Hardy Elementary; Middle Valley Elementary; Hixson Middle School; McConnell Elementary; Lookout Mountain School; Wolftever Creek Elementary; Wallace A. Smith Elementary; Hunter Middle School; Ooltewah Middle School; Alpine Crest Elementary; Sale Creek Middle High; Soddy Daisy Middle School; Allen Elementary and Soddy Elementary.