“Rock and Roll Will Never Die!”

Just Ask NAfME and the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation

Even with the advent of so much new music these days, thanks to the ready accessibility of technology and the Internet that allows literally anyone to write, record, produce, and distribute recordings at the drop of a hat, there’s one genre in particular that still keeps trending like it has since way back in the Fifties –

Rock and Roll.

This was never more evident than during a recent news conference in New York called by Steven Van Zandt’s Rock and Roll Forever Foundation (RRFF) and attended by partner NAfME, among others.

The purpose – to launch a new interdisciplinary middle and high school curriculum that explores Rock and Roll from its roots in blues, country music, gospel, and R&B to its latest incarnations today.

From left to right: Elizabeth Lasko - Asst. Executive Director, NAfME. Steven Van Zandt - Founder, RRFF. Ann Amstutz-Hayes - Senior Vice President, Scholastic, Inc. Dr. Warren Zanes - Executive Director, RRFF. Credit ©NYU Photo Bureau: Rothenberg


Considering everything that’s been seen in the world of rock music over the years, it may surprise some folks to learn that this particular program – Rock and Roll: An American Story (RRAAS) – starts with the premise that there’s an opportunity here for students to explore a “living legacy of generations” unlike any other.  In other words, there are people still alive now who were there when rock and roll was born, while it evolved, and while it’s still evolving.  It’s a chance of a lifetime to get our hands (and ears) around a slice of history-in-the-making.

The secret may very well be that the curriculum manages to weave everything together in a media rich fabric of music, artists, recordings, live performances, politics, and passion – along with an easy-to-digest analytical examination of what it all means to us through the lenses of culture and society.  It’s no joke that music is the international language that blends and transforms our lives, and allows us to communicate and connect more rapidly than any other dialect.  The closest social phenomenon to this would probably be the world’s undying love of sports, but even that doesn’t wash consistently over the populace and make lasting impressions the way music does.

Early adopters of the free RRAAS curriculum stand to be delighted with its depth and potential for engaging students in a world they’re already prone to love.  But even those educators who may be slower to embrace the idea of “teaching rock and roll history” may find the quality of the research and the attention to detail that’s been applied here will make a difference that extends beyond their best expectations.

NAfME has already been supporting the RRFF’s efforts for several years through the course of the program’s development.  Assistant Executive Director Elizabeth Lasko traveled to New York to lend support at the news conference on April 24 at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.  She also interviewed Steven Van Zandt about the relevance of teaching Rock and Roll in the classroom.

Steven Van Zandt, Founder of Rock and Roll Forever Foundation. Credit ©NYU Photo Bureau: Rothenberg


“I met an educator—in my case, a librarian—who saw my interest in Bob Dylan,” explained Van Zandt, a highly respected guitarist, writer and member of the E Street Band, and an actor most often recognized for his role in HBO’s The Sopranos. “She encouraged me to make connections between Dylan’s songs and the world of literature. She helped me to see that ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ was part of a cultural legacy that included the Beats, and that the Beats were part of a story that included the very youth culture that was springing up around me. Suddenly the classroom came alive for me. I was engaged. Learning related to my life.”

Van Zandt and RRFF Executive Director Warren Zanes also used the press conference to  announce a new partnership with The GRAMMY Museum.  Other partners, in addition to NAfME, include Scholastic, Inc. and the National Council for the Social Studies.

Van Zandt and Zanes offered audience members a glimpse of the media-rich, on-line curriculum that will launch this fall with 100 lesson plans.  These include lessons on Gospel music, the Social Soul of the early seventies, the genre’s connection to early Hip-Hop, and many other subjects.

Warren Zanes, Executive Director of the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation. Credit ©NYU Photo Bureau: Rothenberg


“The lessons aren’t just about Rock and Roll music but are truly interdisciplinary, tapping into culture, politics, and society,” Zanes explained to NAfME. “One lesson, for example, uses Elvis Presley’s first single, ‘That’s All Right,’ to explore the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court case.”

RRAAS is currently being piloted in four NYU Steinhardt partner schools in New York City: Edward R. Murrow High School, Fannie Lou Hammer Freedom High School, the Institute for Collaborative Education (ICE) Middle School in the Bronx, and M.S. 223, the Laboratory School for Finance and Technology.

Warren Zanes and Steven Van Zandt of the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation. Credit ©NYU Photo Bureau: Rothenberg


In conjunction with NYU Steinhardt, the Foundation will offer a week-long teacher institute on the NYU campus this summer to train educators on how to use the curriculum in the classroom. In addition, the Foundation will join with the GRAMMY Museum to provide teacher training events across the country after the curriculum rolls out in the fall.

The pilot phase will continue over the next two years in New York City and New Jersey schools. The curriculum, which aligns with Common Core State Standards and the ninth National Music Education Standards (understanding music in relation to history and culture), will be available this fall to schools, at no cost.


Nelson Duffle, Manager of Digital Communications. © 2013 National Association for Music Education (nafme.org)


All Photos – Credit ©NYU Photo Bureau: Rothenberg



NAfME Book: Bridging the Gap: Popular Music and Music Education
Reel Guys in with Repertoire
Wrap Up on Repertoire
Teaching Music Bonus Content from January 2009


The Rock and Roll Forever Foundation is a 501(c)(3) created by Steven Van Zandt of E Street Band and HBO’s Sopranos fame. The centerpiece of the foundation is a groundbreaking middle and high school curriculum that sets the history of America’s most celebrated music against the social, cultural, and political changes that it accompanied and influenced. Living completely online and aligned with Common Core State Standards, the curriculum will roll out in the fall of 2013, and be available free of charge to every interested teacher. Meeting students where they live, Rock and Roll: An American Story (RRAS) aims to be a point of connection between students and their teachers, and the world in which they live. More information can be found at www.rockandrollforever.org.