Flea Compares Cutting Music Education to ‘Child Abuse’
Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea has condemned the removal of music education from schools as “child abuse” – and he’s recalled how discovering his own love of music led him out of a life of “trouble.”
He launched his Silverlake Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles in 2001, after the experience of revisiting Fairfax Senior High School, where he’d studied, and discovering that the music department had almost no equipment at all. With education funding having tightened since then, he says the issue is even more serious, and that’s one reason he’s expanding his own program to include a second location.
“They had maybe one or two acoustic guitars, a boombox, a volunteer teacher, and they were sitting around talking about music,” Flea told Rolling Stone of his return to school. “I was so disheartened. I was like, ‘Where’s the orchestra? Where’s the band?’ I was told they cut off all the funding for that stuff. It really shocked me."
“When I was a kid, I was heading for trouble," he continued. "I was running around in the street, I was robbing, I was breaking into houses, I was doing drugs. I was cutting class and smoking weed. The one thing that kept me together and kept me straight was music. The only reason I even went to school was because I liked playing in the band.”
He’s trying to ensure other kids can be saved like he was by extending the Silverlake program to the Watts projects in L.A., with potential plans for further expansion. But he believes communities have to stand together to protect the arts, since it’s almost certain President Donald Trump’s administration will enforce further funding cuts.
“I worry about a lot of things that guy says, but that affects my worldview generally,” Flea said. “It’s not just music, it’s the arts in general. I encourage everybody to reach out into the communities they live in and do what they can to help out. There are people that don’t have money, don’t have food, education or healthcare. Getting to change things on a fundamental, institutional level is an awesome thing – but we can personally reach out to do stuff that is profoundly helpful.”
On Sept. 9 the Red Hot Chili Peppers – who may or may not be considering retirement – will headline the annual Silverlake fundraising concert at the organization’s own venue on Hollywood Boulevard, whereas in the past they’d had to hire out bigger premises. “We finally bought a building and we have a really beautiful big space now,” Flea said. “We have about 800 kids that come through. Everyone that comes will be able to see the school, get a feel for what’s going on and be a part of it.
“The teachers have gotten better and the way we run group classes has gotten better. Things have gotten more organized. Being of service to the community is all we’ve ever really wanted.”
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