Lower Manhattan Middle School's Cross Country Jam

Music teacher Jude Traxler, a professional percussionist, leads his students during a jam session. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Dec. 30, 2013

“All right, guys. Count us off when you’re ready and we’re going to follow your lead,” Jude Traxler said, smiling at a screen filled with the faces of young guitar players more than 700 miles away.

“If we don't enter at the same time,” he added, “I’ll meet you at the end.”

With Traxler were his own students, the 8th-grade band at Lower Man­hattan Community Middle School, ready to join in on a Skype-connected jam session.

“One, two, three, four,” counted Rick Boyle, the music teacher on the other end at Edwards Elementary School in Chi­cago. The kids on screen began strumming the chords to Tom Petty’s “Free Falling,” followed, quietly at first, by the Downtown middle schoolers on a full range of instruments—guitars, drums, keyboards, and xylophone, with four vocalists standing at mics.

While the New Yorkers’ sound soon overpowered their Chicago counterparts, the joint exercise—which later included a collaboration on Joan Jett & the Black­hearts’ “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll”—was deemed a success as plain musical fun.

It was also a celebration. Rep­re­sentatives from Little Kids Rock, a national organization that supports music in  public schools, were on hand to present five Epiphone Les Paul guitars to each of the schools. The donations were made possible by a grant from the Les Paul Foundation.

The guitars will come in handy with the school’s expanding music program, part of Principal Kelly McGuire’s growing focus on the arts at his school.
But with all the excitement came some trepidation, too. This was, after all, Little Kids Rock’s first cross-country jam session.

“Rick and I both had our fingers crossed and our teeth chattering,” Traxler later recalled, “but they really pulled it off.”


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