“Let’s rock on.”- Carter Lay
By Fredwill Hernandez
Excitement was in the air as Adopt the Arts, the Los Angeles-based non-profit created by Guns N’ Roses former drummer Matt Sorum (a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee), along with activist Abby Berman, launched a school adoption Thur. – Feb. 5, 2015, of Westminster Avenue Elementary School, located in Venice, Ca., and commits to a five year music program. Present and taking part in the adoption ceremony was also Rory Pullens, Executive Director, Arts Education Branch, OCISS, Los Angeles Unified School District, Barry Cohen, Principal, Westminster Avenue Elementary School, Carter Lay, The Carter Lay Charitable Fund, Jay Ponti, Executive Director, PeaceLinkLive.org, Greg Cahill, (the new) music teacher, Westminster Avenue Elementary, along with Rosewood Avenue Elementary (West Hollywood, Ca.) music teacher Ms. Abby and the Change Angels choir.
“Good after noon, boys and girls, and parents, my name is Barry Cohen, and I am the principal of Westminster Avenue Elementary School, it is my great pleasure to welcome you to our school today to help us celebrate our adoption by Adopt the Arts and The Carter Lay Charitable Fund. As you all know, in recent years there have been budget cuts in education and music and the arts have been the first casualties. Thanks to Matt Sorum and Abby Berman, the co-founders of Adopt the Arts, and the incredible philanthropist Carter Lay, music education will becoming back, strong here to Venice,” eloquently expressed Cohen. “I am thrilled to announce that Adopt the Arts and The Carter Lay Charitable Fund will be providing full time modern music instruction to our students for the next five years and hopefully many more there after. Carter, Matt, and Abby have been extremely hands-on and have created for us a beautiful music room, complete with new instruments from Fender, and Casio. Students you should know that I saw Carter Lay help paint the new music room along with Andrew Davis, from Adopt the Arts, and you should know that at no time did I ever see Carter Lay skateboard across the hallways of the second floor, that never happened students, I would not allow it. I have been blown away by his enthusiasm, his generosity, his dedication and deep desire to help kids, and to do good, as part of his do good mob. Yesterday, Matt and Abbey, together with our staff and some wonderful parent volunteers, unpacked all the instruments and set up the room. I watched in ah as Matt Sorum tuned all 30 acoustic guitars himself, entertaining all us with amazing stories all the while. Abbey has been here every step of the way, through identifying our school, painting, carpeting, and introducing us to our fantastic new teacher Greg Cahill. Lastly, I have the great honor of working with wonderful teachers here at Westminster who are passionate about educating the whole child. Adopt the Arts and The Carter Lay Charitable Fund will allow us to do this better than ever, now, it maybe cavalier to expect that this program will ever unearth the talent such as Matt Sorum, but I do know that our students will learn much more than music from this experience. They will learn the power of people giving back and choosing to make a difference helping others in their community. On behalf of the students, parents, and staff of Westminster Elementary School, thank you Carter Lay and thank you to Adapt the Arts for teaching this valuable lesson to our students and for changing their lives for the better.”
Upon finishing his moving and welcoming speech, Westminster Elementary School Principal introduced Rory Pullens, Executive Director, Arts Education Branch, OCISS, Los Angeles Unified School District.
“Westminster Elementary School are you happy today ?, are you happy today ?, make some noise. Oh yeah, oh yeah, we love you here at Westminster. It is a very (very) happy day because the students at Westminster are going to be beneficiaries, you are going to get a wonderful experience in the arts and music education, what Adopt the Arts is bringing to you, so we can make some musical noise in the future and change some young peoples lives,” enthusiastically added Pullens. “The arts are so important in helping students, to not only be better students in Math, in English, in Science, in Social Studies, but let me tell you, If you are an artist, you also get to be a cool person. I am going to introduce now, a cool person who has helped make today possible. And just like you made some noise when I started, when I introduce
Matt Sorum, who use to play, who still plays with group Guns N’ Roses, you say I don’t know that group, your parents know that group. That’s right parents, but in all the musical experiences Matt has had, the greatest experience he has had has been being part of Adopt the Arts with Abby Berman, and they are bringing to you, what he is going to talk about next, and guess what you are some lucky young people, so you have every reason to smile and be happy, so let’s make some noise for Mr. Matt Sorum.”
“All right, all right, music is at Westminster School, what do you think about that ?, all you kids can play guitar, drums, keyboards, bass, and you can create. What do you think about that ?, are you going to have fun or what ? Thank You, Rory, and I am not in Gun N’ Roses anymore and haven’t been for a while, but I am a Rock and Roll drummer and my last band was called Velvet Revolver. I am here to help you kids play music, have fun and that’s my passion now, it’s my joy, I love it. Look at you guys, you look so great, look at you guys, give yourselves a hand,” pumped and passionately expressed Sorum. “We are going to reveal the music room today, we set up everything, we got 30 guitars in there, and 25 keyboards, a drum set, who wants to be a drummer ?, tell me about it, we are the foundation kids and don’t you forget it. Who wants to be a singer ? yeah, we got that, too. Who wants to be a keyboard player ?, who wants to play guitar ?, we got that, too. I would like to introduce a gentleman that is responsible, he has basically put up all the funding, to do all the instruments and pay the teacher for 5 years, you guys are going to have music and arts for 5 years here at Westminster and after that we are going to keep it going, that is what we are going to do. He’s committed for 5 years, and I would love to bring him up here. There’s a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition presented by Ted Lui, the Congressman of the 33rd District, and I would like to present this to the gentleman responsible of taking care all the funding of this program, I’d like to bring him on stage, Mr. Carter Lay of The Carter Lay Charitable Fund.”
“Carter would like to say a few words,” added Sorum.
Carter, “Let’s rock on.”
Sorum, also introduced the new music teacher Mr. Greg Cahill, who express how he feels about music, teaching, and the new music program he will be in charge of at Westminster Avenue Elementary.
“Hey guys, I’m so excited to be working with you guys, I love music and I’ve been doing this for a very long time, it’s been part of my life ever since I was your age, and to pass that along to all you guys, to get you guys excited about music, teach you all kinds of things you never knew were possible, and show you this world of music and enjoyment. I can’t wait, I’m so excited, so see you guys on Tuesday,” sincerely expressed Cahill.
“Matt’s band (Guns N’ Roses) was a big reason why I played music, it’s been a life long journey, and just remember you can accomplish your dreams, you can do anything, and an awesome job guys,” expressed Mr. Ponti, who also presented Sorum and Berman, a Certificate of Recognition from City Councilman Mike Bonin, Representing the 11th District, Los Angeles City Council.
Also taking part of the adoption ceremony were students of Rosewood Avenue Elementary choir, the Change Angels, who came to sing, encourage, and also support Westminster Avenue Elementary.
In 2011, Adopt the Arts chose Rosewood Avenue Elementary (West Hollywood, CA) as its pilot school, working directly with the principal and the booster club to ensure that the students receive exposure to all the arts disciplines, including music, dance, theater, and visual arts.
The evening closed in style with Carter Lay and Matt Sorum, cutting the ribbon, officially launching the Westminster Avenue Elementary 5 year music program by showing off the music classroom to the press and attendees. The freshly painted room looked new, with the 30 Fender acoustic guitars and 25 Casio keyboards, three electric guitars, a bass, and new drum set. Matt even gave all attendees a special treat by getting on the drums, and showing off his skills, reminiscing and reliving the excitement he felt when as a kid when he first learned how to play.
About Adopt the Arts
Founded in 2010, Adopt the Arts Foundation brings together well-known artists, public figures, and the general public to save the arts in America’s public schools. Co-founders Abby Berman and Matt Sorum believe that it is morally and ethically incumbent upon the public-at-large to foster the creativity, dreams, hopes, and imaginations of our children. Adopt the Arts is dedicated to improving the academic performance of every child through the gift of making art and music available to public school students. www.adoptthearts.org/