John Taylor joined New Roads School in celebrating 15 years of cutting-edge education by performing at the school's Family Music Festival & Expo on March 20 — a festival he helped to conceive.
"My stepdaughter came [to the school] for a couple of years, and my daughter's here now. About a year ago, I met the headmaster and talked about helping them celebrate their 15th anniversary," John says. "The idea that I had was to produce an event where we played 15 songs — one song for each of the 15 years — and to record a CD."
New Roads School is a private K-12 school in Los Angeles, situated on four campuses. Founded in 1995, its unique focus on the arts is the centerpiece of its broad curriculum. Students are free to explore a number of artistic fields — music, creative writing, visual arts, film, dance and more. The school also strives to be diverse, inclusive and generous: 40-50% of its annual budget goes toward need-based financial aid.
"It's a very different music program," John says. "At my school, it was all about the orchestra, the choir. I remember asking "Could I play saxophone?" and being rebuffed. And guitar. They weren't interested in those instruments. It was all classical instruments; that was all they were interested in.
"Here, they're so open, and the students are being encouraged to program, to play electronic instruments. They have the world drum band playing with us today. New Roads is unusually diverse. That's their whole deal. It's been enlightening."
The event's musical performances featured students, alumni and faculty from the school, as well as some special guests, including John, Stewart Copeland (of The Police), Raul Pacheco (of Ozomatli) and John Densmore (of The Doors).
"It was an idea that turned into a lot of work for everybody involved, but it's been really rewarding, and today's the live presentation, the summation of the project," John said during rehearsal that day.
John performed on five of the day's 15 songs, including covers of "Music" by Madonna, "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley and "I Can Tell That We Are Gonna Be Friends" by the White Stripes.
"Michael Abels is the head of music at the school, and he pulled [the set list] together," John says. "I thought it'd be fun not to have that agenda. And I found he came to the table with really interesting song choices."
Prior to the event, the musicians and students involved recorded a CD of the songs performed at the festival, plus a couple of extra tracks. The CD was sold at the event, with proceeds going to the school.
For more information about New Roads School, visit http://www.newroads.org
Photos/Report courtesy Nathan Stack