Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, musician, singer, songwriter, producer, arranger, actor, human rights activist and educator Steven Van Zandt launched TeachRock in 2002, an organization providing online music education and many other resources to teachers and students.
Van Zandt, a huge Jazz fan and listener and supporter of WBGO, and his Rock & Roll Forever Foundation's Teach Rock chats via Zoom with WBGO News Director Doug Doyle about the big fundraiser Monday night, December 21 titled "Stand With Teachers" at 8pm.
Van Zandt says the two-hour online fundraiser will feature performances from Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Brown, Eddie Vedder and Margo Price. Others slated to appear Steven's wife Maureen Van Zandt plus their Sopranos colleagues Steve Busemi and Vincent Pastorie, along with Whoopi Goldbert, Tom Morello, Edward Norton, and Lillyhammer's Trond Fausa Aurvag and Steinar Sagen.
A passion to make education more effective and relevant to today's students, Van Zandt says he wanted to honor teachers in ths upcoming event.
"I consider teachers in the same category as police, fireman, our miiltary. They are on the frontlines in the war against ignorance. That war is just as important as any other and maybe more. They should be treated that way. They should be making more money. They should be getting more resources. They should be treated as the extraordinarily important people that they are, instead of being taken for granted which is what happens most of the time."
Van Zandt's vision for TeachRock has never wavered and during this coronavirus pandemic it's made a tremendous impact. TeachRock has provided more than 250 free lessons onlin, from the Birth of Rock to the Roots of Hip-Hop; it provides free distance learning to students in 100 New York City pubilc schools. During the COVID shutdowns, nearly 400 percent more teachers accessed TeachRock's online curriculum. It currently reaches 23,300 schools in nearly 7,000 districts in all 50 states.
"Music happens to be my thing, but we're a little bit broader than that. Our curriculum is based on music history. My passion is integrating the arts, not just music. They should all be integrated into the basic process of education. We are just starting to have partner schools now. I had a chance to visit one which we'll be talking about Monday night and seeing our curriculum integrated kindergarten through sixth grade was one of the most exciting moments of my entire life."
"Little Steven" Van Zandt has said the last few years have probably been the most productive of his career, with the release of five albums including his most recent Rock N Roll Rebel: The Early Years box set.
After creating the "Jersey Shore" sound with the Asbury Jukes he became a founding member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, and went on to become a successful solo artist in his own right recording and performing solo with his band Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul.
Van Zandt's acting career started with a call from screenwriter and producer David Chase who wanted Steven to join the original cast of the Sopranos. In the role of mobster "Silvio Dante", Van Zandt drew rave reviews that eventually led to his leading role as Frank "The Fixer" in Nextflix's original series LilyHammer.
While not a jazz fan growing up, Van Zandt, who is also a radio host and programs two Sirius XM channels, would eventuall dive into the history of America's art form.
"You know jazz at one time was sort of the really underground cult. It's actually easier to find jazz on the radio than certainly Rock and Roll. Jazz was never compromised. The greatest jazz has always been available for some reason which is great. I love that."
The acclaimed guitarist also has high praise for WBGO's morning host Gary Walker.
"He's the best. My alarm was set to him for many years."
You can find out ticket and donation information for "Stand With Teachers" here. Tickets, which are tax-deductible and will allow you to stream the event on-demand for three days.
You can see the zoom chat here.
Click above to hear the entire conversation with Steven Van Zandt.