Vegas’ Own School of Rock

Most weekdays around 2:30 p.m., students at Advanced Technologies Academy can be found fiercely focused on jamming.

Some are organized in rock bands, learning electric guitar, drums, bass and vocals. Others pluck instruments for a budding acoustic section. Some pick up instruments for the first time.

Meet the members of Rock 4 Change, an after-school rock band program that’s the first of its kind in Clark County School District.

How can kids benefit from playing rock ‘n’ roll?

In more ways than you know, says Rock 4 Change creator Jeff Hinton, winner of a 2017 Heart of Education Award from The Smith Center.

“I’m trying to build skills that aren’t taught in the classroom. Things like leadership, responsibility, organization, communication skills,” says Hinton, also a history teacher. “These skills are paramount in a band.”

A New Idea

To this day, Hinton credits music with helping him through a troubled youth.

“I didn’t have a stable home life, let’s put it that way,” he says. “I immersed myself in music. I’m a self-taught guitar player, and I never stopped.”

It eventually dawned on Hinton that playing an instrument provided more than just a distraction.

It cultivated creativity and discipline, and provided a meaningful pastime to fill many difficult hours.

“I realized the importance of music education,” he says.

While joining the Marine Corps gave him the motivation to earn degrees in history and teaching, he feels that school would have meant more to him early on, if rock ‘n’ roll had somehow been part of it.

“As an adult looking back, I thought, ‘What kind of school would have grabbed me and hooked me?’” he says. “I was into rock ‘n’ roll, and that kind of program didn’t exist.”

Music Meets Social Activism

He decided to change that.

Creating a GoFundMe account, Hinton raised $1,600 to purchase instruments and equipment for a rock band program.

In just the first year, “it’s really taken off,” he says.

Roughly 30 kids now participate. Maintaining a student-led approach, the program focuses on teaching students instruments, songwriting and collaborating as a band.

“We had a couple opportunities for the kids to play in front of the student body, and they really loved that,” he says. “They were so motivated, and I took so much pride seeing that in their eyes.”

Rock 4 Change is further organizing a benefit concert for Project 150, a nonprofit supporting homeless and disadvantaged students.

Hinton is also pursuing nonprofit status, to bring the program to more school campuses.

“I didn’t just want to put instruments in kids’ hands. I want this to mean something,” Hinton says. “This isn’t just changing students. It’s changing the community.”

Well-Deserved Recognition

Hinton was “just floored” to be named a winner at the second annual Heart of Education Awards, recognizing outstanding teachers in Clark County School District.

He also enjoyed experiencing the red-carpet awards gala for finalists at The Smith Center.

His $5,000 cash prize will help fund more instruments for his program, he adds.

“The Heart of Education Awards says, ‘I recognize teachers, that what you’re doing in your classroom really matters, the time and energy and effort,’” he says. “It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of.”

Nominate a Teacher

The Smith Center will accept nominations for the next Heart of Education Awards from September 12, 2017 – January 18, 2018. Nominate a teacher at www.TheHeartofEducation.org.

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