Rock ‘n’ roll can break barriers, comfort a nation, or really shake things up. It can also speak to and inspire teenagers in a way that other mediums can’t.
A group of Lorain County Early College High School students are getting an inclusive look at all aspects of rock ‘n’ roll – from visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to learning the history of the genre and even creating their own music. It’s all happening under the direction and encouragement of ECHS teacher Mark Jaworksi – a science teacher who infuses music into his students’ lives whenever possible.
Jaworski recently used a study hall period to host a four-part “History of Rock ‘n’ Roll” series presented by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame docent Deborah Wentz. The journey through musical history covered blues, gospel, Motown, Elvis Presley and more. The program is a follow-up to the class’ visit to the Rock Hall earlier in the school year.
“Music is everywhere. It’s wonderful to help students connect the music they hear every day to the origins of the sounds and artists,” Wentz said.
Learning the deep roots of popular music was new for most students in the class, including Michael Hawthorne, 15, an ECHS student from Elyria.
“The diversity of music that came together to create rock ‘n’ roll was really interesting to find out,” Hawthorne said.
Uncovering where current music trends began was just part of the program. Students also learned how music can address and influence social issues. The popularity of rock music helped bring down barriers between races – both figuratively and literally – during the 1950s and 1960, Wentz said.
“There were ropes separating where white and black kids could dance at the concerts. As the music and dancing went on, the ropes would come down,” she explained.
The message made an impact with the students, including Leeana Boone, 14 an ECHS student from Grafton.
“Rock ‘n’ roll really helped with the crossing of gaps between races,” Boone said. “That’s not something I had thought much about before this class.”
The popular music of the time helped address issues such as the civil rights movement, urban riots of the 1960s and even the Vietnam War. Music also adapted with technological advances of the times, she said.
ECHS student Gloria Lee, 15 from Elyria, said she learned a lot from the program, and even saw some of herself in the artists discussed in the class.
“I especially liked learning about Little Richard. He plays piano and so do I,” Lee said. “He was an African American male in the wrong time, but he made it his time.”
The history of rock program is important part of the extracurricular music experience that Jaworski develops for his students. An avid music aficionado with an exceptional love for Elvis, Jaworksi hosts an after-school program to teach students how to play guitar. He has been holding Rock Lab, as he calls, for eight years now. In 2009, he wrote a grant proposal and was awarded funding to pay for 15 guitars for the students to use.
“I was fortunate to take guitar lessons at an early age and it made a huge impact on my life. I’m thankful for the opportunity to share the love of music with the students,” he said. “Playing music teaches a skill, but it’s so much more than that. The students learn to believe in themselves and trust their creativity.”
The music lessons will go one step further when the Early College High School students will participate in a songwriting workshop with professional singer/songwriters Jonathan Kingham and Ryan Shea Smith in May. Songs written during the workshop will be performed during a concert on Friday, May 19 at Stocker Arts Center.
Lorain County Early College High School is a tuition-free, four-year combined high school and associate degree program for first generation college students located on the campus of Lorain County Community College. Applications are being accepted now for the 2017-2018 school year. Learn more at www.lorainccc.edu/earlycollege or by calling (440) 366-7689.