Local band Nicn?s fights school budget cuts with its Music to Your Peers program 

click to enlarge Blake-Parks.jpg

Nicn?s fiddler Blake Parks was not sure what to expect the first time he got on stage in front of Duncan High School, his alma mater, as part of the Oklahoma City rock and blues act’s new charitable schools program. What the band got was a raucous reception.

“Those curtains open; the lights are going, the fog,” he said. “We have high energy onstage, so the kids were screaming like it was their first concert.”

For some of the students, it was their first live music experience.

The show served as the pilot for the band’s Music to Your Peers program, an idea Nicn?s developed to raise funds for and promote school music programs in the state.

Through the program, Nicn?s works with a school’s band and choir programs to put on a pair of concerts. The first is an afternoon gig for students. Nicn?s plays a 15-minute set and speaks to youths about finding success in life before the students close the program with a performance. They then do a ticketed community show that evening as a fundraiser.

Half of the funds raised benefit the school’s music program. The other half benefits Music to Your Peers and its efforts to help other state schools buy instruments and equipment.

Parks said the idea grew out of an initial dream to collaborate with a school band or choir for a Nicn?s show. As bandmates tossed around the collaboration idea in fall 2015, discussion inevitably turned to the state’s cuts to public school budgets and how limited funding for music programs can be.

“We were like, ‘How cool would it be if we go and do this program with music programs to help them raise money,’” Parks said. “It just grew from that.”

As kids, Nicn?s members participated in school music programs. Parks started playing fiddle at age 12. Duncan High School did not have an orchestra program when he went there, so he pursued choir, an experience that he said shaped who he is today.

“It’s kind of like sports, but not everyone likes to play sports,” he said. “But it’s that same teamwork aspect and discipline and hard work, the same thing we learned in music.”

Nicn?s performs a Music to Your Peers benefit show to support Granville Community School of Music 7:30 p.m. Friday at Centennial Rodeo Opry, 2221 Exchange Ave. Granville provides music instruction to children from low-income backgrounds for 50 cents a lesson.

“If we raise $500 for them — that’s a lot of 50-cent music lessons,” Parks said. “They also need instruments and things like that, so we want to support them and do that too.”

The quintet performs another Music to Your Peers benefit 8 p.m. Oct. 15 at The Bottle Cap Barn, 3600 Rogers Drive, in Edmond to benefit Harding Charter Preparatory High School’s music program.

He said one day additional host bands could be welcomed under the Music to Your Peers umbrella and Nicn?s could hopefully expand the program into other states.

“They would have to have a show to put together. It couldn’t just be anyone,” Parks said. “I think more and more people understand the impact of these cuts.”

Learn more about the program at musictoyourpeers.com. Find tickets to Friday’s show on ticketfly.com.

Print headline: Schoolhouse rock, Local band Nicn?s fights school budget cuts with its Music to Your Peers program.

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