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Steven Van Zandt on being honored by the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation

Sara Dramer
Associate Producer

Steven Van Zandt is no stranger to history — he’s often making it. Music? He’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. Television? He played the consigliere in the HBO drama The Sopranos and produced and starred in Lilyhammer, the first original show created by Netflix (NFLX). Politics? His 1985 protest song, “Sun City,” helped call attention to apartheid in South Africa.

“Little Steven,” as he’s known, joined Yahoo Finance’s The Final Round fresh off a world tour with his band, The Disciples of Soul, promoting his 2019 album, “Summer of Sorcery.” In a wide-ranging interview, Van Zandt touched on every aspect of his career — from his early days as a guitar player on the Jersey Shore to the founding of the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, which provides free interdisciplinary K-12 arts-based curriculum to public schools across the country. 

The foundation uses the history of popular music and culture to help teachers engage students. “We can’t use the old methods that we were taught, which was learn this now and someday you’ll use it,” he said. “That’s not gonna work with these kids. They get the answers they want on their device in 30 seconds so, we engage them with music ... Our basic goals are real simple: Keep the arts in the DNA of the education system, teach this new methodology to keep kids interested, and third, affect the drop-out rate,” Van Zandt told The Final Round.

Music legend Stevie Van Zandt's Rock and Roll Forever Foundation is a 501(c)(3) and TeachRock is the Foundation’s national K-12 curriculum initiative. Created to address the challenges of an environment in which schools face cuts to arts funding.

Van Zandt said he’s thrilled about the upcoming Rock and Roll Forever Foundation’s first annual gala. On November 23, he will be honored at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square for his longstanding commitment to supporting arts education. The event will be hosted by actor and comedian Drew Carey, with a musical performance by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. 

“We don’t accept any government money, this is all privately funded ... We have a modest goal here, we’re trying to raise I think $1.5 million ... The more money we have the more lesson plans we can do.”

Van Zandt also discussed the ups and down of the music industry, with the huge surge in music streaming over the last decade. “[The record business] ended as we know it over these last ten years ... This other thing kind of replaced it, which pays about one percent ... I tell people to this day, stream it to check it out, but if you like it buy it, download it, people still depend on that income.”

For more on the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation and its first annual gala, visit teachrock.org.

Sara Dramer is an associate producer at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @saradramer

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