The Donald Hertz School’s rock band, increasingly known as the Rockin’ Bulldogs, have taken musical education to a whole new level and are scheduled to open for the multi-Grammy award wining pop diva Roberta Flack at a Central Park concert on June 21.
The school’s latest and hottest musical group was born from a VH1 Save the Music grant they received last summer.
The funding provided 20 Fender electric guitars, 20 amps and a handful of musical pods, sparking the unique and highly celebrated group of 10 P.S. 83 students who quickly named themselves after the school’s coveted mascot, the bull dog.
“They literally brought the house down, and from there we grew,” principal Benjamin Soccodato said of the group’s performance during a recent dinner meeting.
In fact, their distinctive style made such a splash that on Tuesday, May 27, the group played to a crowd of more than 600 at Queens College’s annual awards night.
Soccodato said he’s thrilled at the students’ unexpected, yet highly deserved success.
“It’s one thing to develop a program,” he said. “It’s another to put it to use.”
Also agreeing with the importance of such diversified school programming, Borough President Adolfo Carrion and Councilman Jimmy Vacca jointly donated half a million dollars for the redevelopment of one of the existing school spaces into a state-of-the art band lab.
“The lab is going to be really conducive in expanding what has truly become a great program at our school,” Soccodato said. He added that not only does the program provide a fun opportunity for the school’s youth, but also more importantly, it’s affecting the musicians on a personal level.
“Now their esteem level is off the charts,” he explained. “These kids think they’re awesome.”
The Rockin’ Bulldogs is one of many extra-curricular activities offered to further entice students’ creative appetites.
In collaboration with Truman High School, P.S. 83’s students continue to explore the festive flavor of a joint culinary program.
The school also offers, among other activities, Irish dancing, Hip Hop classes, a Regents Earth Science and Math 1 class, a robotics team and ballroom dancing, which Vacca sponsored.
Soccodato said such programs not only boost the children’s self esteem, but can also show them a path to potential career choices – a win, win situation.
Local elected officials agree.
“While I’m all for stressing reading and writing, I think we also need to bring cultural programs into our schools,” Vacca said. “These programs combine discipline and structure with exercise and social skills, and I think those skills are very important in helping these young students prepare for the older grades and for a well-rounded life.”