“I wanted to create something that could reach that kid that didn’t have something,” says Roberto Clemente Middle School music teacher Randi Levy in the opening line of the trailer for the documentary film which focuses on the Clemente Music Rocks! music program.
The film, “Best Day of My Life: The Rock in Schools Story” was produced House Digital Cinema and Clemente Music Rocks in association with $5 Music Video NS Chuck Levins Washington Music Center. It is a documentary film produced by the video arm of House Studio DC, a well-respected professional recording studio in Washington, D.C. about the Rock Band music program at Clemente.
The filmmakers released the trailer for the film on Wednesday via YouTube and are hoping to garner 250,000 views prior to the premier of the full film, which is still in post-production.
“The story tells itself,” said Levy. “It is a very organic. The kids are the stars. They tell their story through interviews, and interactions at events, rehearsals, and in schools.”
The film evolved from what, Levy says was supposed to be a two minute promotional video about the Rock in Schools program that she pioneered at Roberto Clemente MS eight years ago. “It started with the hopes of making a two minute promotional YouTube video,” she said.
Levy has been working with Montgomery County Public Schools to try to expand the Rock Band program to other middle schools but the cost of the instruments makes it prohibitive.
The idea of teaching rock n’ roll in schools continues to go against the grain of how music has been taught in schools, but over the last eight years Levy has seen her program greatly influence the lives of her music students.
“Fourty years ago Jazz wasn’t taught in schools because it wasn’t considered in an important art form. People would never say that now,” said Levy.”Jazz is taught in school all the time, rock and roll is not. One of the reasons it is not is music teachers are not trained to teach it. We don’t have the pedagogy to teach it, we shy away from it. But if you put the instruments in these kids’ hands, the kids will step up and run with it. You have to be willing to step outside of the box, be a little innovative, and just go for it. The kids love it. They are on fire for it. You don’t have to sell it, it sells itself. It is not like music theory disappears just because you teach a more modern form of music.”
“We are at a tipping point, especially in MCPS,” said Levy. “Katie Murphy is the content specialist for general music for MCPS, she is completely on board with this program and completely supports it. Her only obstacle is how to fund it. And that was the ultimate purpose of this film.”
While looking for someone to make her promotional video, Levy, was introduced to Yudu Gray Jr., CEO at House Studio DC, by Adam Levin from Chuck Levins Music Center in Washington D.C. Levy and Levin had worked together in the past on a Rock In Schools benefit show at the Fillmore in Silver Spring in 2013, which featured student bands from five MCPS schools with rock band programs.
Once Gray brought in House Studio creative director and EMMY winner Simon Kim, who goes by Kim Shim Won, to direct the film, the idea of a 2 minute promotional video blossomed. Kim realized that this story could not and should not be told in two minutes and proposed making it into a 20 minute documentary film. That was eventually expanded again and the film, is now running 45 to 50 minutes, according to Levy.
The movie was filmed over two or three weeks at Roberto Clemente Middle School as well as Takoma Park Middle School and Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School in Sliver Spring, both of which have Rock Band programs.
“The film was more than just a camera crew in a room,” said Gray. “Simon is a very hands on director who in his unique way becomes a part of the story. The students are the focus and the stars of the film and their interaction with both Randi and Simon are the heart and soul of the film.”
“The hope is that the film will bring exposure to the program,” said Levy, “so that the business community will take an interest and want to help fund the program, and ultimately bring in sponsorships so that Rock in Schools can expand to the whole school district. That is my dream.”
Once completed the film will be submitted to the DC Shorts Film Festival, at the end of this month, as well as other film festivals around the country. The film must be submitted in April to be in contention for the actual DC Shorts Film Fest which takes place in November.
“We are in the final editing phase and plan on hosting a series of screenings including one in Germantown in the next two months,” said Gray.” After screenings we plan on distributing the film so that the original goal of spreading the amazing story of Randi and the students so that it connects with as many people as possible. The hope is to show how much of an impact the Rock Band program is to middle school students, and hopefully have it spread to other middle schools around the country/world.”
The film makers are hoping to hold a premiere in Germantown at Seneca Valley High School in the coming weeks, but the details are still in the process of being worked out.
According to Levy, who gets a writing and producing credit in the trailer, the initial goal of 250,000 views for the trailer would give the producers enough traction to go to the Washington Post and other local and national media outlets to promote the film.
The second aim, said Levy, would be reaching out the National Association of Music Merchants, which is the largest provider of musical instruments in the world, and to Grammy University, which is a community of full-time college students, primarily between the ages of 17 and 25, pursuing a career in the recording industry. The Recording Academy created Grammy U to help prepare college students for their careers in the music industry through networking, educational programs and performance opportunities.
The video appears to be working. Levy says that she’s heard rumblings that companies like Yamaha and Roland have seen the trailer and want to get involved in Rock in Schools.