An elementary school gym might seem like an unusual place for a rock concert.
And kindergartners might seem like an unusual hard-rockin' audience.
But desperate musical times call for new strategies, says Rodney Zinn, a Haysville dad and music promoter on a mission.
Zinn recently started an organization called Save the Rock, and his mission is to help save music in schools.
His plan is to organize and stage rock concerts at local schools then donate some of the proceeds to the schools' music programs.
Zinn put on one of his first concerts (and earned his Cool Dad badge) Saturday night at Nelson Elementary School in Haysville, where his 5-year-old-son Keegan is a kindergartner.
"Not everybody's an athlete, and we need to give other opportunities to kids who are into music," he said. "For a lot of high school students, music is the only thing they have to look forward to, and if we can't keep it in schools, we might lose it."
Zinn, a longtime music promoter, got the idea for Save the Rock when he was shopping for schools for his son, who's interested in playing the guitar.
He got a quick education on the sorry state of music programs, on the cost of instruments, and on the fact that music programs tend to suffer when school districts can't even afford computers or new books.
Zinn came up with a plan, enlisted the help of his wife, and started focusing full time on building Save the Rock. He put on a few concerts in Dallas, Kingman and Parsons to help raise seed money for the organization and approached his son's school about putting on the first big show, which featured kid-appropriate rock band Soulicit.
Zinn, who had to sell the idea to the Nelson Parent Teacher Association, says he's careful to choose bands whose lyrics and performance style are kid-friendly.
His plan for the concerts is to put them on at area schools, cover his costs and keep 20 percent of the proceeds, then give the rest to the schools to be used on instruments, travel or whatever the music teacher deems appropriate.
His Saturday night concert at Nelson cost $10 for adults, $5 for kids, and also included face painting and other kid-friendly activities.
"Schools are always looking for something different," he said. "People are tired of the same old stuff — bake sales and whatever they've got going on. This is something new. Music kind of brings everyone together as a family."
His hope is that the concerts will also show kids that if they dedicate themselves, they can be young rock stars, too. Some of the bands he recruits are high-school aged.
He also wants to use the concerts to promote another of his passion projects, an organization called Pass the Dream, which collects used instruments and passes them along to music students who can't afford to buy or rent them.
Zinn doesn't have any more concerts scheduled yet but he hopes that, come spring, he can stage shows all over the Wichita area. In the meantime, he'll work to find sponsors who want to help keep the organization going.
Anyone interested in helping with Save the Rock or Pass the Dream should contact Zinn at 316-409-0849 or at email@example.com.
Zinn also has a fairly rockin' website with more information— www.savetherockconcerts.com.