Van Zandt brings tour, teach­ers’ work­shop to re­gion

The Republican Herald - This Weekend - - CALENDAR - BY PA­TRICE WILD­ING STAFF WRITER Con­tact the writer: pwild­ing@ timessham­rock.com; 570-3489100, ext. 5369

He may be nick­named “Lit­tle Ste­vie,” but E Street Band found­ing mem­ber Steven Van Zandt is onto big things.

The ac­tor, mu­si­cian, pro­ducer, com­poser and host/ DJ of “Lit­tle Steven’s Un­der­ground Garage” is set to come to Wilkes-Barre on Thurs­day for a pair of events that look to en­ter­tain and en­lighten.

Mu­sic fans can catch Lit­tle Steven & the Dis­ci­ples of Soul in con­cert at 7:30 p.m. at F.M. Kirby Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts, while area mu­sic teach­ers can sign up for a free ed­u­ca­tional work­shop, TeachRock, held ear­lier that day, that will fea­ture an ap­pear­ance by Van Zandt.

The work­shop is part of an on­line ini­tia­tive, teachrock. org/tour, that Van Zandt has de­vel­oped for a decade. It of­fers unique les­son plans for kinder­garten through grade 12 and counts to­ward ed­u­ca­tors’ re­quired an­nual pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment hours at no cost to them.

Dur­ing the hour-long work­shop, teach­ers will en­gage in group ac­tiv­i­ties, learn arts in­te­gra­tion tech­niques, net­work and have a chance to meet Van Zandt, who also will present them with a pair of free tick­ets to that night’s show.

After years spent com­pil­ing the lessons for the on­line data­base, Van Zandt de­cided the time had come for di­rect out­reach, and so he com­bined the ef­fort with his con­cert tour across the states.

“In my mind, they are the front­line of our de­fense. They are the fu­ture of our coun­try, and we tend to take it for granted. So we ded­i­cate this tour to them,” he said.

Giv­ing teach­ers free ac­cess to the work­shops is cru­cial to keep­ing the arts alive for stu­dents as school dis­tricts cut fund­ing, Van Zandt noted.

“It’s a ter­ri­ble tragedy. We hope, first of all, to just keep mu­sic in the sys­tem,” Van Zandt ex­plained. “An­other goal is to have enough cov­er­age in all grade lev­els to af­fect the drop-out rate, be­cause it’s epi­demic. Sta­tis­tics show if (stu­dents) like one sin­gle class or one sin­gle teacher, they’ll come to school. We want to be that one cool class they love. We want to see these teach­ers ap­pre­ci­ated as the he­roes they are.”

Be­yond this phi­lan­thropy, Van Zandt feels thrilled to share the tal­ents of the 15-piece band of the “great­est New York mu­si­cians” he put to­gether for his show, which sup­ports his 2017 “Soul­fire” al­bum.

“It’s kind of a sum­ma­tion of my whole ca­reer and a ‘best of ’ my whole work,” the long­time Bruce Spring­steen col­lab­o­ra­tor said.

For his stop in WilkesBarre, guests will re­ceive their own his­tory les­son in the sources of Van Zandt’s great­est in­spi­ra­tions.

“I in­cluded a lot of the roots of where I came from, ev­ery­thing from doo-wop to blues, where rock be­gan, right through cin­e­matic Blax­ploita­tion and En­nio Mor­ri­cone, hard rock and salsa and even reg­gae once in a while,” he said. “By the end of the night, the goal is to give peo­ple more than a se­ries of songs but a lit­tle bit of con­text of when those songs came out and why they were writ­ten. Peo­ple leave with more en­ergy than they came with.”

And while he has never shied away from ac­tivism for a va­ri­ety of causes, from in­ter­na­tional peace and an­tiA­partheid move­ments to rights for indige­nous peo- ples, his cur­rent stage show strives to be apo­lit­i­cal and in­stead of­fer respite from the trou­bles of the world.

“I was very, very po­lit­i­cal in my early days, but now I leave it all out­side and spend two hours trans­port­ing them to com­mon ground so they can just en­joy the high-qual­ity mu­sic,” Van Zandt said. “For­get about pol­i­tics for a while, be­cause we’re just in­un­dated 24 hours a day. In the past, I brought it with me be­cause it was all be­hind-the-scenes, but now it’s just the op­po­site. It’s giv­ing sanc­tu­ary for that. Ev­ery­body is wel­come to my show to en­joy the mu­sic.”

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