October has been quite the month as the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus kicked off its New York City residency with stops in all five boroughs. The first visit was to PS171 / CPE II in East Harlem with Yoko Ono Lennon. That set the stage for our stops in Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx and Brooklyn, where we visited schools in association with our partners at the NAMM Foundation, Little Kids Rock and Amp Up NYC.
The stop in Staten Island at The College of Staten Island High School for International Studies showed, once again, just how much a school’s success is based on parents getting involved with teachers and the administration to ensure positive results.
In the Bronx we were stationed at Crotona International High School and, in addition to the recording of an original music video project, the entire student body formed a human peace sign. Kudos to Principal Jesseca Long and her team, who have an inspiring digital media program in which students learn real world career skills working with all of the amazing applications found in Adobe Creative Cloud.
Next up…our Queens stop was at W.C. Bryant High School where we were joined by singer/guitarist/U.S. Representative, Joseph Crowley, who spent time playing on the day’s track and sharing his love for, and memory of, the Beatles and John. Also on hand was recording artist duo, Nina Sky of “Move Ya Body” fame, who spent the entire day mentoring the budding songwriters and musicians. I took a great tour of the school with the principal, Namita Dwarka, who was a graduate of W.C. Bryant herself; she gave me an overview of the school’s illustrious history, including the fact that legendary actress/singer Ethel Merman was a student there way, way back in the day.
Finally on October 9th, for what would have been John Lennon’s 74th birthday, we parked at the Williamsburg Northside School and created another peace sign, but this time with tiny tots who got the chance to jam out on Yamaha keyboards and drums and Gibson guitars. New York State Assemblyman Joseph Lentol helped coordinate the stop and I learned about his initiative, with the chief executive of Downtown Music Publishing, Justin Kalifowitz, and studio owner, William Harvey, to provide tax credits to help keep the music business in New York City. You wouldn’t think that was really needed but if everyone just assumes we’re the center of the biz, don’t be surprised when L.A., Austin or N.J. starts making it worth everyone’s while to pick up and move. It’s happening already.
Bringing the Lennon Bus to the city has always been a challenge. Despite our status as a non-profit, 501(c)(3), the red tape, permits, and rules related to bringing an oversized vehicle here has only gotten worse since our launch in 1998, when we parked in front of Webster Hall for the “Imagine Party.” The success of that event led to the opportunity for millions of students across the U.S. to experience the studios and produce original music and videos on-board our state-of-the-art facilities.
Looking ahead to 2015 and the 75th birthday celebration, I’d like to dig in even deeper and spend more time supporting the students from the city that John called home. With help from our growing list of friends, parents, artists and public servants including NYC Council member Daniel Dromm, Congressman Crowley and Assemblyman Lentol, we’ve got a shot to make it work. Perhaps we should try and stage the world’s largest peace sign and show our kids that we actually think that’s possible. Imagine that.