Saturday, February 21, 2015

Finding Inspiration in the Classroom: Matching Your Passion to Resources

30 - With Cathy BlacklerCathy Blackler is a wonderful friend of mine from Southern California. We first met, as I have with so many of my teacher friends, via Twitter, and have since shared many meals and stories together at NCTE.

At NCTE this past November, Cathy told me a phenomenal story about a way she was trying to fund a music program at her school. It was a story, as are so many of Cathy's stories, that was legendary. And on Thursday, it became more than just the stuff of legends. It became a reality. When Cathy posted this story, I asked if  I could also post it here because I didn't want her words to get lost in the ephemera of Facebook. I especially love that I can hear Cathy's joyful voice telling this story as I read her words

Thank you Cathy for your beautiful spirit and your passion for your students! I am honored to call you my friend. The first time I read this on Thursday I got all teary and did once again as I was putting this post together. 

Cathy's story is just another reminder of why teachers matter.


I definitely found the joy today. Today was epic. It may very well have been the High Point of my Teaching Year. Let me tell you a story:

In September I took my husband on a date to a benefit concert for Jail Guitar Doors, founded here in the US by Motor City 5 member Wayne Kramer. I could not help but notice the similarities between Wayne's mission, to help prisoners find their voice through music, and the mission of our alternative high school and its music program. As we were in desperate need of new instruments for our program I figured I would contact Wayne, via Twitter, to see if he had any advice on how to acquire instruments. He graciously replied and we spoke on the phone, bonding over our passion for the populations we serve. While Wayne could not help me directly, he gave me a contact: Matt Sorum, former drummer of Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver, The Cult, and current drummer and founder of the Supergroup, Kings of Chaos. Matt has founded a non-profit called Adopt the Arts. Their mission is to fund music programs in schools where said programs have been cut completely or where funding has dried up.

 So, of course, I penned an email and hit send, never imagining in my wildest dreams what would come of it. Two days later, I received a reply.

 Hi Cathy, How are you?

A rhetorical question, no doubt. How am I? Seriously, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Matt Sorum just asked me that question. Better yet, he replied that he would love to be involved with our program, AND could I take a phone call.

Why yes. Yes I can. A few phone calls, lots of emails, and a face-to-face meeting at The Adopt the Arts benefit last month eventually led us to today. Matt, along with Paul Ill (who served as his official photographer) arrived at our school along with a van full of instruments. A new bass, three new guitars, a new drum kit, keyboard, mics and amps were presented to our student body, along with a heartfelt message from Matt about the importance of music as a social equalizer. He also informed our kids that his "adoption" comes with a 5 year commitment from him.

 I tell my students every day that they have the power to change their circumstance. Hearing it from someone like Matt is something few of them will forget.

 And it gets better.

After listening to them perform two songs, one of which was an original, Matt sat in on the drums as the group played "Knockin' on Heaven's Door."

Seriously. This happened.

 I feel pretty bad-ass today.

I will be forever grateful to Matt for his generosity, his graciousness, and his genuine concern for our students and their future.

 Did I mention I love my job?
Cathy's pic3

Cathy's pic1

Cathy's pic2
Photos courtesy of Cathy Blackler and Matt Sorum's Facebook page

Celebrate This Week was established by Ruth Ayres


  1. Wow, that is just incredible!! What an opportunity. I love how this scenario just proves what she tells her students: THEY have the power to change their circumstances. Thanks for sharing!

  2. What an amazing story! Thank you for sharing.

  3. This story made me cry! Definitely a highlight of a teaching year, maybe even a career highlight!

  4. So often I tell my students if you don't step up and try, you'll never know what might have been. Your friend Cathy showed us this loud & clear, Beth. Thanks for a beautiful story!

  5. WOW! Thanks so much for sharing this incredible story.

  6. Wow. That is amazing. What a beautiful mentor Cathy is for her students. Thank your for sharing!

  7. I love this story when I read it on Facebook, but I missed many of the pictures--thank you for sharing it here too. It's an important story. Teachers make an incredible difference in classrooms every day. It doesn't have to end there though. Cathy reminds and inspires me to get going on the "what ifs" and "just asks" I've been holding on to.