Wilson Middle School students rock out with Kenny Loggins


About 30 Wilson Middle School students who are part of Glendale Unified’s only rock ‘n’ roll music class performed “Footloose” in front of Kenny Loggins, who co-wrote and originally sang the song, Thursday morning, much to his liking.

“I’m very impressed,” Loggins told the students afterward. “That’s a lot of sound coming out of this room — it’s big. I’m also really impressed that you picked ‘Footloose’ because that bass line is not easy.”

His appearance at Wilson Middle School was organized by Little Kids Rock, a New-Jersey based nonprofit that supports music programs nationwide by providing training events for teachers, as they have for Wilson instructor John Andrews — and by donating instruments.

A benefit Loggins performed at last fall in New York City raised $1.1 million for Little Kids Rock, money the organization will use to enhance music education across the country.

A portion of those funds provided new drums, guitars and amplifiers for the Wilson students, which Loggins unveiled after he offered them some music advice.

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Loggins told the students he didn’t start playing guitar until he was in high school because his middle-school guitar teacher played for Lawrence Welk’s band.

“He didn’t know any of the songs I wanted to learn,” Loggins said.

A few years later, Loggins played guitar surreptitiously.

“My big brother had the only guitar in the house, and I was not allowed to touch his stuff. So I had to sneak into his room when he wasn’t home, take the guitar off the wall, and learn to play it, and put it back before he got home, so it was a dangerous occupation,” he said.

When he learned to play Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” he knew he wanted to pursue songwriting.

“That blew me away. That’s when I started writing, when I learned that song,” he said.

When he was a high school senior, he wrote “House at Pooh Corner” and “Danny’s Song.”

He encouraged the students to explore songwriting.

“There’s a lot to be learned there. It’s really exciting to create something new, and have that idea, take it to GarageBand and turn it into something where you can hear it and play it for your friends,” he said. “It certainly changed my life. I went from being the guy with buck teeth and big ears to being the guy everyone wanted to call and come to the party.”

Loggins also told the students how crucial it is for him to rehearse before taking the stage.

“For me, rehearsing makes performing so much easier,” he said. “If I don’t rehearse, if I’m not ready, I get really nervous. Then I think too much. But if I’m rehearsed and I don’t have to think, I can feel. Music is about feeling.”

Near the end of his visit, Loggins sang as the Wilson students backed him up on instrumentals and vocals for a second “Footloose” performance, which went off without a hitch.

The students had practiced playing the song for only a couple of weeks.

“Today, we did really good,” said 13-year old acoustic guitar player Anndelle Phillips. “Yesterday, we had to keep stopping.”

Nyeli Parra, who is also 13 years old, said she didn’t anticipate singing side by side with Loggins.

“It’s going to be an experience I’m going to remember for the rest of my life,” Nyeli said.

For singer 13-year-old Ella Beyer, the chance to belt out “Footloose” made her more sure of herself.

“He changed music history, and to be able to sing with a guy like that, I think it was a really great experience. It helped me to have more confidence to just go out there and do what you love to do,” she said.

For 14-year old Salvatore Campo, who played electric guitar during the performance, Loggins’ visit was “the best thing for me,” he said. “I’m just so honored to see someone who’s progressed so far in his career come to our school. I’m kind of speechless.”


Kelly Corrigan,

Twitter: @kellymcorrigan