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A Video of Their Own

Kevin Clark started banging drums when he was a toddler, but it wasn’t until he wanted to try out for the school band at age 8 that he took music seriously.

The 15-year-old drummer, who played Freddy Jones in the 2003 comedy movie "School of Rock," wants other kids to have the same opportunities for inspiration that he did.

So Mr. Clark, of Highland Park, Ill., is supporting a contest this month to encourage students ages 13 to 19 to compete for a chance to have a video of their own original song produced and aired on the cable music channel VH1. The contest is playing off the success of "School of Rock," in which a class of 5th graders form a band and learn some life lessons along the way.

This month’s contest, sponsored by Paramount Home Entertainment, VH1, and the American Music Conference, challenges young musicians to write and perform their original songs and upload them onto the music conference’s Web site aimed at students at They can also mail in recordings.

"Even if kids don’t want to pursue music later on, it’s a great way to be creative," said Mr. Clark. His role as ultra-cool, spiky- haired drummer Freddy Jones was his first acting job. He snagged it after answering a newspaper classified ad seeking student musicians to star in a movie with comedian Jack Black.

The contest is part of a larger effort to fend off cuts to music programs in schools and encourage students to take up an instrument, said Laura Johnson, the associate executive director of the American Music Conference, a non-profit music education advocacy association based in Carlsbad, Calif.

"I’m very concerned, as someone who did grow up with music education in my school," that school music programs are dwindling, she said.

State-level budget cuts, either already made or looming, could deprive as many as 30 million students, or 60 percent of those enrolled in grades K-12, of music education, Ms. Johnson said. Studies have shown that students who play an instrument score higher on reading and math tests, she said.

Ms. Johnson and others came to Washington earlier this month hoping to persuade politicians to support music education. Students are definitely responding, she said. Since VH1 began advertising the contest, the number of visitors to her organization’s Web site has doubled, she said.

—Michelle R. Davis

Vol. 23, Issue 28, Page 3

Published in Print: March 24, 2004, as Take Note

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