Steven Van Zandt has a problem with the education system. Hard-working teachers are paid very little and music is being removed from school curriculums.
His band, Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul, is standing strong with educators on the Soulfire Teacher Solidarity Tour. Besides supporting teachers, Van Zandt is introducing TeachRock, the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation’s free, multimedia, K-12 interdisciplinary curriculum that meets standards in English language arts, social studies/history and the fine and performing arts.
So far, 8,000 teachers have signed up for the curriculum.
“We’ve been working on this curriculum for 10 years. We’re just going public with it now,” Van Zandt says. “I didn’t want to go public until we had 100 lessons at least.
“TeachRock.org is a music history curriculum we wrote for schools. We’re already reaching out to administrators. We wanted to reach out from the bottom up and let them get a sense of what this curriculum is.”
The Soulfire Teacher Solidarity Tour concerts are free for educators of all types and a guest via teachrock.org/tour.
At each show, including the Sunday, December 16, gig at The Van Buren, will also see Little Steven and his TeachRock staff hosting free professional development workshops designed to engage educators with techniques and content through which they can use music to inspire students. In many locations, the workshop will also count toward continuing education hours and license renewal.
“Teachers are underappreciated and underpaid,” he says. “We found out they have to do professional development every year to certify, which they have to pay for out of their already-meager salaries.
“This is a little different than the professional development experience they may be used to. This is a rock ‘n’ roll experience. They come to the show for free. The curriculum is free and the showcase is free.”
The spots on the tour itinerary align with states whose teachers went on strike or are considering it.
“We thought, ‘Let’s go to those states and just shore up the support in the local community for the teachers,” Van Zandt says. “That’s what we’ve decided to do. We’re going to every place where they were having problems or went on strike. We always hope they don’t have to go on strike and the community will support them.”
Van Zandt, the longtime guitarist of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, is pushing his first solo album in 20 years. Soulfire has 12 songs, including the title track, “St. Valentine’s Day” and “Love on the Wrong Side of Town,” written by Van Zandt and Springsteen.
It was followed by Soulfire Live! featuring songs like “Standing in the Line of Fire” and “I Don’t Want to Go Home,” along with covers such as The Electric Flag’s “Groovin’ is Easy,” Etta James’ “Blues is My Business” and James Brown’s “Down and Out in New York City.”
“The live album is an entire show plus an hour of extra songs,” Van Zandt says. He is working on a new album, the details of which he was not ready to divulge. Right now, he’s focused on helping teachers.
“Once they canceled all the arts classes, it became more important than ever to have a music presence in the system,” he says. “I wanted to make sure, in the heart of the system, there was some kind of music being discussed, heard and talked about.
“I wanted to make sure the teachers had an opportunity to be creative.”
Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul, The Van Buren, 401 W. Van Buren Street, Phoenix, thevanburenphx.com, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, December 16, free to $299.