For most adolescent students, a school-wide assembly is little more than a reprieve from a long day of pretending that they give a damn about algebra. They wander into the auditorium with their bleary-eyed apathy, fingers twitching to break out the smartphone to see what their friends are up to on Instagram. They're not expecting it when Going Second, an alt-rock band from the Wasatch Front, cranks it up to 11 and gets them dancing in the aisles.
Going Second cut its teeth on the tour circuit, appearing at popular festivals like the Vans Warped Tour. In 2008, the band self-released Wake Up, a catchy, power-pop morsel that feels at home with the work of Secondhand Serenade and All Time Low. "It was fun, but it gets old playing for a bunch of drunk people in bars," says lead guitarist Mike Crowder.
After a near-fatal bout with appendicitis in Tibet landed him in a Chinese military hospital, Crowder decided to use his musical abilities to make some kind of difference. "I told Maria, my girlfriend at the time who is now my wife, that if I wake up, it's a bonus life, and I'd rather spend it doing something that I believed in," Crowder says.
To that end, Crowder founded Music Makes Music, an organization dedicated to promoting music programs in secondary schools, as well as providing students with resources to help prevent substance abuse and depression. As the only original member of Going Second, Crowder recruited some new blood in lead vocalist Ferril Davis, rhythm guitarist Keaton Stewart, bassist Chris Saul, drummer Nic Battad and light/sound tech Henry Castillo. Together, Going Second visits schools all around the western United States to treat them to a welcome midday rock concert with an empowering message.
"Teenagers look up to rock stars, but the messages that they hear the loudest are not necessarily the most positive," Crowder says. "We come in with the same messages that parents and teachers have, but kids are more likely to listen because we're a band. It's all in the presentation—the lights, the smoke and the lasers."
The most resonant aspect of the Music Makes Music program is the inclusion of school music programs. "A month before we do a show, we send the mp3s and arrangements to the music teachers," Crowder says. "It's designed to get students on stage and make them rock stars for the day." After each show, band members will spend the rest of their day in music classes answering questions and further educating students about their program. "We're also happy to come speak to any class—all of our guys have different backgrounds, so we can say something in every single class," Crowder says.
For schools that support the program, the results have been positive. According to exit interviews conducted after their shows, 68 percent of students claimed that they were less likely to get involved with drugs than they were beforehand. "Music also engages different areas of the brain," Crowder says. "Without it, certain things don't work as well. It helps with everything from creativity to problem solving to coordination and communication."
In Crowder's experience, it's the schools that don't have music or art programs that also have the highest rates of problems like violence, depression and substance abuse. "As soon as you start taking away programs that give kids creative releases, it just stifles everything," he says.
And what would any American rock band be without a merch booth? Members of Going Second have started a clothing line that can be perused online, and the Music Makes Music program is always accepting donations. Think of that bored high school student that we all were at one time—don't you want to treat him or her to a mid-day rock concert? Check out MusicMakesMusic.org for more information.