Street of Rock: How a group of parents transformed a community with music by guest blogger, Sarah Hartell

When we first moved to Ottawa nearly 6 years ago we knew exactly two (wonderful!) people in this city and realized very quickly how important it was to build a community here for ourselves and our children.   Without grandparents or any family members nearby we initially felt quite isolated and lonely in our city but time, and making a conscious effort to make friends who felt like family, helped us to feel as though Ottawa really was home.

We got to know our neighbour Kayren, her partner Steven and her daughter Gabby very well when Kayren started watching our three kids while I went back to work part-time.    Our kids love Kayren and her family as if they were our own family and have had hours and hours of fun playing, imagining and creating with Kayren and Gabby.

imgres-1Last year, 10-year old Gabby was beyond bummed when, due to the teacher’s work-to-rule mandate,  the “School of Rock” program that is typically run each year at her alternative elementary school was cancelled.   She had been waiting since she was in kindergarten to get to sing and play the ukulele in School of Rock and was devastated that when her year finally came to take the stage the program was cancelled.

One day while picking up our kids from Kayren’s house we were talking about how sad it was that the program was cancelled and how disappointed all the Grade 4-6 kids were about missing out on this opportunity.   Then it struck us – my husband Dave is very musical and Kayren is an amazing organizer – if the school wasn’t able to run School of Rock we could offer a similar program for the kids outside of school.   And that is when “Street of Rock” was born.

It didn’t take long to get kids interested and within a few weeks we had over 20 kids sitting in our living room learning the lyrics and ukulele chords for “I Love Rock and Roll”.

The Street of Rock group met once a week in our living room – practices were always followed by popcorn or cookies and a rousing game of hide and go seek throughout our home.  Our kids were much younger than the rockers but were welcomed into the group with open arms.   Our six-year old son often played the shakers or banged a little drum in time to the singing and our four-year old twins always had their pick of laps to hang out on.

Word of the Street of Rock group spread around our neighbourhood and the group started getting asked to do performances at local events.   Let me just say that not much is more heart-warming than a group of 4 to 12 year old kids standing on a stage and belting out a song accompanied by ukuleles.   The Street  of Rockers got rave reviews from all their fans and were so proud of their performance accomplishments.

The teachers stopped their work-to-rule mandate in the spring and we thought this would be the end of the Street of Rock as the kids would now get to do their beloved “School of Rock” at school.   However, all the kids were adamant that Street of Rock continue so continue it did!

This year, Street of Rock started back up in September with many of the same founding members.  However, the program has grown to include three other neighbourhood schools, 3 more parent musicians and is now hosted out of the local Community Centre.   We miss having all the singing and energy in our living room once a week, but there are so many kids in the program now they definitely would not fit in our house!

The Street of Rock has allowed kids to meet friends from other schools, learn to sing and play some awesome songs and even hone their performance skills.  But most importantly, the Street of Rock has built a great community of people who have the common connection of their love of music.   It’s pretty hard to feel lonely when surrounded by singing and laughter – we are so happy to have this Street of Rock community in our lives.

Check out Street of Rock at Arts Park May 2013

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Sarah lives in Ottawa with her husband Dave and three children – six-year old Elliott and 3 1/2 year old twins Adeleine & Isaac.  She works on Parliament Hill by day, teaches prenatal classes by night and loves her bike, home renos and her community.   She blogs about day-to-day life with her crew at www.anotherlineaday.tumblr.com – a blog that is read mainly (ONLY?!?) by grandparents and relatives living far away.

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