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Teacher gets rock music education in New York


Charles Geier was one of 15 teachers invited to summer institute

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Charles Geier, a West Tualatin View Elementary School teacher, hangs out with veteran Rolling Stone magazine writer David Fricke during the Rock and Roll Forever Foundations National Curriculum Summer Institute at New York University last month.Charles Geier might want to thank the King of Rock ’n’ Roll for his recent trip to New York City.

It was an essay the former Oak Hills Elementary School teacher wrote about Elvis Presley that led him to be chosen as one of 15 teachers across the country to participate in a seven-day, all-expenses paid trip to Rock and Roll Forever Foundation’s National Curriculum Summer Institute at New York University in early July.

Founded by “Little” Steven Van Zandt, Bruce Springsteen’s right-hand man in the E Street Band and former “Sopranos” actor, the foundation’s board of directors also includes Springsteen himself, singer/songwriter Jackson Browne, and Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese.

None of those icons were around during Geier’s visit, but the incoming West Tualatin View Elementary School teacher says he had a great experience interacting with a range of educators and music supporters: doctoral students, public high school and middle school teachers, autism specialists, conservatory teachers, district curriculum developers and academic historians among them.

“It was wonderful and stimulating to participate in a professional development week and have all of the participants be there for the same reason: the passion of bringing rock and roll music into the classroom,” he said, “to give meaning to reading, writing, mathematics, science, history, art, college and life preparation, and 21st century learning.”

Geier, 49, who was profiled in the Valley Times on June 20, has already made a contribution in this direction with his Rockin’ Blues Academy project at Oak Hills. The eight-year district veteran designed the free, after-school program to give older elementary students an opportunity to learn an instrument in a band-oriented setting while learning the history of rock ’n’ roll music since its mid-1950s emergence.

Geier received positive feedback about the program at the conference, but unfortunately not from the academy’s founder, who was on tour with Springsteen in Europe and unable to attend.

“We did get the opportunity to learn about interviewing and journalism from Rolling Stone magazine writer David Fricke, who just returned from the tour to write his latest piece about Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in Europe,” Geier said. “A longtime friend of Steven’s named Dick Manitobe (of the band The Dictators) came to share his longtime passion for music and how it helped to give (the band members) purpose and meaning.”

Among the Big Apple’s plentiful musical and cultural offerings, Geier enjoyed learning about noted musical archivist and curator Alan Lomax, who recorded and preserved a wealth of songs that formed the foundation of most modern music.

“I loved learning about Alan Lomax and his recordings of early cultural songs for the Library of Congress,” he said. “America has such a rich musical history that it is exciting to be able to continue learning about it and sharing it with students of the Academy.”

Geier plans to continue the Rockin’ Blues Academy as an extension of his new teaching role at West Tualatin View. He and his wife, Kristine, also a schoolteacher, hope to add a tutoring aspect to the program to provide additional assistance to students after school.

“I am very excited to see how the program will expand as I move to West Tualatin View,” he said, adding he’s grateful to have been chosen to represent the Northwest Region at the rock foundation conference. “Steven Van Zandt truly cares about the power of music and rock and roll in the lives of today’s youth.”