UNION COUNTY, N.C. — Elementary school kids in Union County are jamming out with their music teacher in an after school rock band.
Music teacher, Nick Wagner, started the band at Sardis Elementary School this school year.
"I’ve had a lot of students ask me over the years for guitar lessons. But it occurred to me the interest in guitars, drums, and piano was so high that it made sense to start a rock band," Wagner said.
For Wagner, music is very important to him and he hopes to spread the love for the craft onto his students.
"In Elementary music, we didn’t do a whole lot, we talked about music but didn’t really get to experience it," Wagner said about his own music experience as a kid. "I think it's awesome and an awesome opportunity and I think it's relevant to what kids are doing today and the adults that they see playing music."
Since starting the rock band Wagner said he's seen drastic improvements in his students' lives in and out of music class.
"I see them motivated. I see them more motivated in class asking me a lot of questions eager to practice at home," Wagner said.
The rock band, "Sardis Rocks/Peanut Butter Jam" plays a wide range of music -- from classic rock songs to modern-day pop songs. Wagner said he didn't want to pigeon-hole himself into doing just rock music.
"I'm huge into Jazz, I'm huge into Bluegrass music and Folk music," Wagner said. "I think anything and everything goes. And I think rock is just kind of a name for the music that people are making today that’s made up of a bunch of genres."
Wagner treats this afterschool band like any other band. If a student wants to pitch a new song for the group to play they have to come prepared.
Here's how this works: the student will play the song in front of the band and then explain why that song should make the cut.
"Sometimes we would play one song, but if someone wants to introduce another song they would play it and Mr. Wagner would decide if he likes it and he would teach us the notes of it," said Armani Borrero, a 5th-grade student.
"Sardis Rocks" was generously supported with a grant from the Union County Education Foundation. Wagner applied, and was awarded the LIFT grant.
The LIFT (Leadership and Innovation Funding for Teachers) Grant program allows Union County Public School teachers to apply for grants for projects that focus on the EmpowerEd framework of Connect, Create, and Collaborate.
Thanks to the Union County Education Foundation, Sardis Rocks was able to purchase electric guitars, amps and so much more with the $1,500 check.
"We’re very fortunate to have that grant to supply some of the instruments you see here and the amps, so they were very generous and we’re very grateful for their support," Wagner said.
Wagner said he's very hopeful for the future of the band and hopes to expand it as the years go on.
"I would love to grow the program, maybe start selling tickets to our shows and getting t-shirts," Wagner said. "Obviously a rock band can only be so big but having two groups. Maybe a battle of the bands down the road."
"Sardis Rocks/Peanut Butter Jam" will have a concert showcasing their talents on April 27 at 6:30 p.m. in the Sardis Elementary School gym.
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