E Street Band's Van Zandt Launches Music Education Program

Springsteen guitarist, 'Sopranos' actor Van Zandt touts music education program.

Dec. 2, 2007 — -- As a member of Bruce Springsteen's legendary E Street Band, musician Steven Van Zandt regularly plays sold-out shows for massive audiences. But despite his personal success, Van Zandt fears that rock and roll is becoming "an endangered species."

"It was really starting to become hard to find," Van Zandt told ABC News.

Worried for the future -- and the past -- of rock, Van Zandt, known as "Little Steven," started the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, and sought to find a way to get rock and roll into the classroom.

Click here for Van Zandt's favorite albums

"We wanted to make sure that ... all succeeding generations get a chance to have access to the greatest music ever made," Van Zandt said.

Through the foundation -- and with the support of MENC: The National Association for Music Education and Scholastic -- Van Zandt launched "Little Steven's Rock and Roll High School." The program outlines a rock and roll curriculum that ties the music to historical events.

"I think the first goal is to inspire kids to learn about this great art form, this uniquely American art form that the rest of the world ended up making fantastic contributions to," Van Zandt said. "And having learned that history, hopefully, [they will] be able to appreciate or think to it in a different way, perhaps. And then, if they have any inclination, of course, we are encouraging them to take music class."

Rock and Roll Forever executive director Warren Zanes said the goal is to get the program "into every middle school and every secondary school in the country."

"You always run into resistance when you're trying to get a new form of popular culture into the classroom," Zanes said. "With every passing year, it gets easier because the administrators grew up on this stuff -- but there are still those who feel that rock and roll is entertainment, pure and simple. This project is certainly setting out to convert those people."

The curriculum takes students through history with a rock and roll point of view. Zanes believes you can't fully explain the civil rights movement without exploring the music.

"I don't think rock and roll explains or determines the civil rights movement, but you had large numbers of American teenagers preferring black music to the music that their parents listened to," Zanes said.

According to Van Zandt, rock and roll is also in a unique position to teach students about finding cultural common ground. He describes rock and roll as "the only art form ever half-created by blacks, half-created by whites and with a healthy contribution by Hispanics and, of course, women involved from the beginning."

"It's something that's quite unique in its origins," he said. "And it continues as a wonderful common ground, which I think we could use a little more of, right?"

For Van Zandt, the effort is also deeply personal. The guitarist has claimed rock and roll saved his life.

"This is the most important thing I will do in my life," Van Zandt said.

ABC News' Susie Banikarim contributed to this report.