By Bill Parry
The John Lennon Educational Bus Tour made a stop in Jackson Heights Monday and gave students from PS 69 the opportunity to write, perform, record and produce original songs, produce and shoot music videos and documentaries and complete a broadcast quality music video all in one day.
The state-of-the-art rolling recording studio, now in its 18th year, is making its way to schools in the five boroughs in honor of what would have been Lennon’s 75th birthday on Oct. 9.
“Arts education is a wonderful way to motivate children, teach new skills and make the school day exciting,” School District 30 Superintendent Dr. Philip Composto said. “The bus continues to be dedicated to providing young people with tours of the studios and participation in free songwriting and multi-media workshops.”
The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus events will culminate with the creation of the world’s largest human peace sign in Central Park Oct. 6. The bus happened to stop by PS 69 on the same day that the United Nations observed International Day of Peace with Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon appealing to all warring parties to lay down their weapons and observe a global cease-fire and “stop the killings and the destruction, and create space for a lasting peace.”
The significance of the date was not lost on the school’s principal, Martha Vasquez.
“I can’t help thinking that having this event today, the International Day of Peace, helps us commemorate this meaningful day and celebrate John Lennon’s ideals of peace in a special way,” she said.
Deborah Strack Kregan, an arts liaison and SEM teacher specialist for PS 69, pointed out the school’s diversity.
“Our students speak more than 26 different languages at home and music is the one common language that they all share and love at PS 69,” she said. “Imagine if everyone could follow the lead of our students and learn to live together as one unified community with respect for all.”
Elected officials stopped by included U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), an accomplished guitar player himself, and state Sens. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) and Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst).
“The philosophy behind the John Lennon Educational Bus is to promote peace and by having it here in the district, we are doing that: spreading the word about peace,” Peralta said. “The bus brings an amazing opportunity for our students by allowing them to create their own music, songwriting and connect to the legacy of John Lennon. Maybe we find the next music legend in the bus as it tours Queens.”
Before departing, the Lennon Bus and businesses Juniper Networks and Securematics donated $4,000 worth of cash and equipment to PS 69 to bolster the school’s music program.
City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who arranged for the visit, said the donation would enhance the school’s music program, “which was cut back over the last few years.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr