Play It Again, Joe

Stallone inspires children to turn to music

Published in 2010 Texas Rising Stars magazine

By Andrew Johnson on March 17, 2010

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Whether he is advising Grammy winners or school children, Joe Stallone thrives on working with the musical lives of people.

Stallone, a 39-year-old partner at Houston-based Oaks, Hartline & Daly, heads up the firm’s entertainment section. He represents musicians, including a few Grammy winners, as well as record labels, recording studios and booking agents.

So what’s he doing spending his afternoons hanging out with underprivileged kids?

“Music and fine arts are often the first programs to get cut out of school curricula with shrinking public school budgets,” Stallone says. “Underprivileged children don’t have any opportunity to be exposed to a musical education if it’s not offered in public school.”

So Stallone has taken it upon himself to get kids the music exposure he believes they deserve. In 2007, he established the program Grounded in Music with the Boys and Girls Clubs in Austin. The program recruits musicians to teach kids about the importance and opportunities of music. With a highly positive response from children and parents, the program quickly blossomed, and became a stand-alone nonprofit organization.

Grounded in Music children have the opportunity to learn to play the drums, guitar and piano, though the organization plans to add other instruments to the curriculum. Kids are brought behind the scenes of the music business to experience the jobs of agents, managers, and sound and production crews.

“We want our kids to know they don’t have to play an instrument to have a career in music,” Stallone says.

The program instructors are professionals but they’re definitely not your stereotypical school music teachers. “We’re bringing rock stars in,” Stallone says. “Our instructors have Mohawks and tattoos; they’re the real deal.” The year-round, four-days-a-week sessions have children coming home from school to write music rather than clicking on the TV or surfing the Web.

Grounded in Music’s instructional curriculum is overseen by Daniel Barrett, the guitarist and lead vocalist for porterdavis, a band that won the Best Roots Rock Band Award at the 2008 Austin Music Awards.

Stallone knows firsthand the impact this real-life contact can have on children. While in high school, he played keyboard for the band Final Cut. One of their songs was recorded and produced by Gary Tallent, the bassist in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, an experience Stallone says he’ll never forget. His success has given him the opportunity to pass that experience on to the next generation.

The program’s success has allowed it to expand from Austin to Philadelphia. And Stallone sees no reason for it to stop there.

“We’ve come up with a cost-effective and easy-to-run operation,” Stallone says. “There is no reason this model shouldn’t be used across the country.”

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