P.S. 83’s Rockin Bulldogs still performing 11 years later

(l-r) Mr. Richard Giannotti, guitar teacher and band advisor; Darrell Johnson, 6th grader and band drummer; Samantha Mendez, 8th grader and singer; Lorelei Blanco, 8th grader and base player; Ke’lia Singleton, 7th grader and singer; Jeremy Rodriguez, 8th grader and guitar player.
Community News Group/Sarah Valenzuela

When you look at a typical public school in the borough, similar patterns welcome you.

The same tiled walls, narrow staircases, double doors, tall window frames with the solid tan shades.

When you open the front doors of P.S. 83 and travel up a few flights of stairs, that all changes.

You find a sound proofed room, inside of which you can hear the regular practice sessions of P.S. 83’s student rock band.

The band, known as the Rockin’ Bulldogs, has been around since 2007.

The students that represent the band today range from sixth to eighth grades and were all born after the year 2000, yet they are all well versed in artists like the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix.

Since 2007, the band has played on the sets of NBC and VH1 and in venues from a local Best Buy to travelling to performing in Washington D.C.

“The very first concert the Rockin’ Bulldogs performed was at Irving Plaza with a bunch of adult bands and the kids blew everyone away,” said Richard Giannotti, the band’s advisor, instructor, and founding member. “This current group has less total time than past groups, but they still have a lot of fun. It’s about the kids.”

The current group, which formed at the end of the last school year, performed most recently at a James P. Peters Veterans Hospital Valentine’s Day event hosted by Senator Jeff Klein and have even performed for some of the New York Rangers, but not all of them are new to the instruments they play.

“I got my first drum set when I was one-years-old and I taught myself to play,” said 6th grade drummer Darrel Johnson.

Though the songs are picked and moderated by Giannotti, the middle schoolers make it their business to listen to music outside their generations’ norm.

“My family always listens to bachata and I got tired of it,” said eighth grade guitarist, Jeremy Rodriguez. “I was super curious about other kinds of music so I looked for them myself, like blues, gospel, and soul.”

The Rockin’ Bulldogs were first formed from existing programming introduced to the school.

Giannotti, who was once in his own band, is also the school’s guitar class teacher.

The guitar program at the school was started by the VH1 Save The Music Foundation and from the work being done in the guitar classes, evolved the band.

“Music is a stress reliever from school so it’s nice to play and it makes me happy,” said eighth grade base player, Lorelei Blanco.

The public school system, citywide has seen cuts to arts and music programs, yet these sixth, seventh, and eighth graders are still turning heads and making others know exactly why music in schools is so important.

“I’m really grateful we’re able to do this because in my life I’ve had to work for everything,” said seventh grade singer, Ke’lia Singleton, who spent many years living in a homeless shelter before coming to the school and joining the band.

The band is slated for what may be their final performance together at a district wide talent show on June 13.

“You have to take every opportunity to show who you are,” said 8th grade singer, Samantha Mendez.

Reach Reporter Sarah Valenzuela at (718) 260-4584. E-mail her at svalenzuela@cnglocal.com.

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