Richie Sambora and Orianthi Celebrate the Season and Support Young Musicians!

Rock star Richie Sambora (Songwriter Hall of Fame, and former lead guitarist and songwriter for Bon Jovi) is a longtime supporter of the annual Hollywood Christmas Parade – a nationally televised parade that benefits the Marine Corps’ Toys For Tots charitable holiday season toy drive. Sambora was invited to perform again this year as part of a star-studded event featuring performances from Stevie Wonder, Heart, Taylor Dayne and many more. Joining Richie onstage would be ace guitarist Orianthi, and Michael Bearden, Michael Jackson’s Musical Director for “This Is It.”

Richie wanted to have a children’s choir sing with them on “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s classic 1971 Christmas song/anti-war anthem.

Orianthi, an honorary board member for Rock School Scholarship Fund (RSSF), reached out to RSSF’s co-founder and Executive Director Wendy Winks for help in rounding up young vocalists.

“RSSF is very grateful for Orianthi’s ongoing support,” says Winks. “We had such a great time when she headlined a benefit concert for us at Center Staging in 2012. I wanted to do everything that I could to help her, Richie and Michael realize their vision for the parade, and make such a powerful song relevant to a new generation of children.

Winks arranged for students—ages 9 to 15—from rock music schools in West Los Angeles and Burbank to participate. Everyone enjoyed a special day of rehearsals at Richie’s home on Friday, November 28.

And despite some morning rain showers, everyone’s mood was buoyant two days later during the rehearsal on Sunday, the day of the parade. But the rain persisted, and the performance was cancelled.

Richie deeply felt the kids’ disappointment, and approached the Hallmark Channel—a sponsor of the Parade—about turning it into a special television event. “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” with Richie, Orianthi, and the children’s choir was filmed and recorded at Universal Studios, and broadcast on The Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family show on December 8th and 9th.

Interview with Richie and Orianthi on Hallmark Home & Family

Performance “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” with Choir from School of Rock

Thank you Richie Sambora and Orianthi for helping kids rock!

Thank you School of Rock West Los Angeles and School of Rock Burbank for your totally rockin’ kids!

Thorek Memorial Foundation Grant


The Rock School Scholarship Fund is Awarded a Thorek Memorial Foundation Grant to Fund Scholarships for Students to Attend School of Rock Chicago

$26,730 grant will cover tuition for 15 students for one year


Los Angeles, CA, October 11, 2014: The Rock School Scholarship Fund ( has secured a Thorek Memorial Foundation grant in the amount of $26,730.  The grant, awarded last month, is earmarked to provide year-long scholarships for 15 students to enroll in programs at School of Rock Chicago in Chicago, Illinois.  Founded in 2010, RSSF is the first 501(c)3 non-profit organization to provide and administer scholarship funds, based on financial need, for children ages 7 to 17 to attend any rock music school in the U.S. (including but not limited to School of Rock locations).  All schools supported by RSSF emphasize performance-based programs including lessons, rehearsals, and group shows.

“We’re deeply grateful to Thorek Memorial Foundation and its Executive Director Cynthia Barrera for recognizing the work that we do with music education, and making rock music programs affordable for underserved youth,” says RSSF Co-Founder and Executive Director Wendy Winks.  “Chicago-area students will benefit greatly, and we look forward to seeing their progress.  RSSF is committed to identifying and pursuing similar opportunities for tuition assistance in other areas across the country.”

The grant was brought to the attention of School of Rock Chicago Regional Director Adam Mackintosh by musician, songwriter, and Chicago-area radio and television personality Damon Ranger.  “It’s a thrill to know we’ll be welcoming 15 new students to our school over the next year – young people who otherwise would have been unable to participate,” says Mackintosh.  “We’re honored by Thorek’s generosity.”

School of Rock Chicago, a School of Rock affiliate, employs an immersive, performance-based approach to music lessons in an interactive environment.  They are located at 3043 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL.

The Thorek Memorial Foundation ( is affiliated with Thorek Memorial Hospital, a 218-bed, not-for-profit acute care facility providing quality, progressive health care to Chicagoans.  It was originally founded in 1911 as the American Hospital by Dr. Max Thorek and his wife Fannie as a 25-bed hospital primarily intended to serve members of the performing arts community. Some of its early patients included Mae West, the Marx Brothers, Harry Houdini and Buffalo Bill Cody, to name just a few.

A Special Son


“My son was misdiagnosed as autistic at 2 1/2 years old. Instead, he had a rarely seen language disorder that looks like autism early on but is not. It was a looooong road trying to get to the bottom of it, but I did. My son is 17 soon, and School of Rock has everything to do with why he is a happy young man, flourishing in music, school and in life.” Continue reading

Charlottesville Teen Sits Center Stage at South African Festival

Courtesy of Carmen Day1It’s December 7, the height of the South African summer, and the excitement is palpable as the gates open at a warehouse-turned-music-venue in the popular tourist getaway of White River, Mpumalanga. Concertgoers gravitate to the largest of three stages at the Route 40 Music Festival, as the drummer of the newly formed band Cosmic River counts off into a multi-tempo, cello-driven rock song with unique Middle Eastern influences. At the center of the stage sits the song’s original composer, 14-year-old Charlottesville, VA native Carmen Day. Read more

Rock School Scholarship Fund Co-hosts Youth Songwriter Program

Rock School Scholarship Fund Partners With Carnegie Hall and Casterbridge Music Development Academy to Co-host Youth Songwriter Program

A Panel of VIP Judges Select Six young U.S. Musicians to Participate in South African Festival

The idea for the Youth Songwriter Program came to Rock School Scholarship (RSSF) Co-Founder and Executive Director Wendy Winks in 2012 after she was approached for advice by Paul Bruce-Brand, a founder of the Casterbridge Music Development Academy (CMDA) in White River, Mpumalanga, South Africa.

Winks and Brand presented a concept for an international musical exchange program to the Director of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute Musical Exchange. The Institute helped facilitate a nationwide competition in the U.S. to send six young musicians to South Africa to collaborate and perform with their counterparts there.

In 2013, entries were judged by music luminaries Dave Matthews, Vicki Peterson (The Bangles), Wayne Kramer (MC5), Kay Hanley (Letters to Cleo) and GRAMMY –winner/ Songwriters Hall Of Fame inductee Holly Knight. The winners—from California, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia—were: Anna Pearl Belinda, Carmen Day, Dylan De Anda, Abby Hwong, Jason Matkin and Samuel Mayer.

Meet The Songwriters:  Carnegie Hall Youth Songwriter Musical Exchange

From Manhattan to Mpumalanga, a Global Musical Journey

On November 30, 2013, the six winners of the Youth Songwriter Program flew to New York City to attend an Arlo Guthrie and Family concert at Carnegie Hall.  The show also featured Pete Seeger, and turned out to be the folk legend’s final live performance.

The following day, the winners—accompanied by Winks, RSSF Music Director Carl Restivo, and Yasmin DeSoiza from Carnegie Hall—traveled to South Africa, where they were also joined by Christopher Amos, Carnegie Hall’s Director of Media Education & Technology.  At the Casterbridge Music Development Academy, they collaborated with South African students, forming bands and learning each other’s original songs, with arrangements by Restivo. Three days of rehearsals and music and cultural exchange led up to the Route 40 Music Festival in White River.

The three-day festival featured many of South Africa’s most popular rock bands, including Prime Circle, Watershed, The Parlotones, Vusi Mahlasela, and others.  Each day, the U.S./South African student bands opened for the headliners. The first day of the festival was marked by the passing of the legendary Nelson Mandela, resulting in the festival being dedicated to his memory.

Honoring Nelson Mandela

During the festival, workshops were led by artists including Vusi Mahlasela, a close friend of Mandela. Although Vusi had once been jailed and beaten for singing anti-apartheid songs, “forgiveness” was a recurring theme in his stories.  Instead of sadness, the South African community paid joyful tribute to Mandela’s life and legacy.

Two of the U.S. students, Dylan De Anda and Samuel Mayer, were selected to learn the South African song “Weeping,” an important anti-apartheid song from the 1980s. It contains elements from “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika,” which had been banned in South Africa at the time—inclusion of even the melody violated the law.

Today, “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” is part of the country’s national anthem. In concert, “Weeping”—including the formerly illegal lyrics “Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo lwayo”—featured De Anda on vocals, accompanied by fellow Youth Songwriter Program winner Mayer and the South African band, Vital Crew.


For More On This Story From Carnegie Hall, Please Click Below:

Jackson Browne Helps Kids Rock at Troubadour Fundraiser for RSSF!

Photo credit:  Mike Skillsky

The Rock School Scholarship Fund (RSSF) hosted a fall 2013 fundraiser featuring special guest Jackson Browne. Playing to a capacity crowd on November 24 at The Troubadour in West Hollywood, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame- and Songwriters Hall of Fame-inducted artist opened the evening with a short set accompanied by guitarist Val McCallum. Continue reading

ABC Talks About RSSF

November 23, 2013 (CHICAGO) (WLS) — You could help generate much-needed cash for your favorite charity, just by going to a concert or a sporting event. You could even help by seeing a Broadway play, but it depends on where you make your purchase.

These students get a kick out of “Rocking Out” at the real life “School of Rock” on the city’s Northwest Side. They get vocal training and learn to perform rock ‘n roll classics. Many of the students say the experience is unmatched. Read the full story

LA Daily News on Jackson Browne RSSF Concert

LA Daily News on Jackson Browne RSSF Concert Singer songwriter, Jackson Browne sings at Occupy Washington, DC at Freedom Plaza on December 5, 2011. Browne has been inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. (Photo credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

By Rob Lowman, Los Angeles Daily News

While some may think of him more as a folkie, don’t forget that Jackson Browne was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. And on Sunday, the acclaimed singer-songwriter will be performing at West Hollywood’s Troubadour with School of Rock Students for the Rock School Scholarship Fund.

The students are from the West L.A. and Burbank branches of the school, which for 15 years has offered music education programs throughout the country. The scholarship fund, a public charity, provides tuition for children to attend any rock music school in the U.S.

Sunday’s concert will showcase current students, and Browne will be on hand to perform several songs.

The Nov. 24 show starts at 7 p.m. at The Troubadour, 9081 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood.

Limited VIP ticket, which includee early admission, balcony seating and reception, are $120. General admission is $60. Reception upgrades are an additional $80. Tickets are available at

For details, contact