Five questions for Joe Panganiban of Little Kids Rock. Rockin’ it with 4,000 CPS school students at Millennium Park, October, 14th.


Question: When we first met, Joe, you were a CPS music teacher and I was a volunteer with ukulele. What are you doing now?

Joe Panganiban: It was great having you volunteer with the Ukulele Ensemble! I knew that having strong community support was essential to the success of the music program. You were a great addition! Having a member of the community in the classroom gave the students a perspective on how music reaches so many people that were different from them, but can come together. You were especially helpful since the ensemble rehearsed during my lunch period!

From that experience, I realized that music has the power to transform lives in much bigger ways than I had initially expected. Even today, I look back and am really proud of what my students accomplished in an incredibly short amount of time. However, I started to see the disparity in access and equity across the city, and I felt that I needed to help change that. I was approached by Little Kids Rock to become the Regional Program Director of Chicago to help train and support teachers and give that kind of access I gave to my students, but on a larger scale. I now do more teacher support, training, and plan events that gives opportunities for student performance. It’s very fulfilling work, but I definitely miss being in the classroom interacting with students on a daily basis.

Q: What is the goal of Little Kids Rock?

Joe: Little Kids Rock is a national nonprofit that aims to transform lives by restoring, expanding, and innovating music education in public schools. We do this by providing training to teachers to teach “Music as a Second Language” to enhance learning in their classroom. We also provide free resources such as musical instruments, curriculum to create Modern Band ensembles, and additional support to those teachers. We focus on the most underserved schools in the US. Any additional information can be found on

Q: How many students does it serve in the Chicago area?

Joe: Currently, there are over 27,000 students in Chicago Public Schools that benefit from Little Kids Rock. Not to mention since it’s inception in 2002, we have served over 500,000 students across the United States. Little Kids Rock is the largest free instrument program in Chicago outfitting at least 30 new schools with a classroom set of instruments each year!

Q: You are planning an event?

Joe: I am! More now than ever, I feel that there should be some good news coming out of all of the amazing things that are happening in CPS, arts being one of them! We are planning the 2016-17 School Year Kickoff Concert on Friday, October 14, at Millennium Park! We’ll be inviting all of our partner schools to send their kids for an across-the-city jam session in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Our goal is to have about 4,000 students jamming at the same time during this concert. There will also be some appearances by special guests as well as people and other organizations that support our efforts. This will be the LARGEST event that Little Kids Rock (and I) have ever done and it’s happening right here in our city! We might say I may be just a little excited!*

Q: What’s your favorite song that’s popular right now?

Joe: I may or may not be proud to say I’m a Chandelier -a fan of Sia. I’m actually going to her concert two days after the event! Her songs are just way too catchy! So I would say “Cheap Thrills” is my favorite song right now. It’s actually kind of ironic during this day and age since the song is about living life without the need for money.

*Joe also told me, “Of course, if the strike happens before that, the concert will be cancelled and I personally support the teacher’s right and their need for a fair contract.”

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