Teen Mash Mob Takes Manhattan:
Making Lasting Connections, One Song at a Time

Words by Corinne Casella
Photo by Donna Aceto

Guitar Mash will host a Teen Mash Mob Thursday June 2, 2016 from 4:30-6:00 PM at Madison Square Park, 23rd Street and Madison Ave. Over 100 teens and tweens from schools across NYC will participate, including kids from Guitar Mash’s Teen Acoustic Guitar Project, Little Kids Rock, Lower Eastside Girls Club, Replay Music School, School of Rock NYC and more. The flash mob will consist of said teens singing and playing guitar with the mission of celebrating the power of music to spread acceptance and change to the world.

Special guest Brandon Niederauer, who portrays Zack in Broadway’s School of Rock, will lend his notable chops to the proceedings. The event is also supported by NY-based guitar string manufacturer D’Addario. Music to be featured includes ‘Purple Rain,’ by Prince, ‘Revolution,’ by The Beatles, ‘Ho Hey’ by The Lumineers and ‘Riptide,’ by Vance Joy. The event is free and open to ages 11-19.

At once insightful and innovative, Rebecca Weller, founder of Guitar Mash, sat down with us for an intimate look at the event and the importance of music in our everyday lives.

So this event is slightly different [from other Guitar Mash events] in that it will be conducted in an open space and free to the public. How do you feel that dynamic changes the end result, as compared to a more defined audience?

Rebecca Weller: The fact that there is no ticket price, that anyone can take part in it, well, that is ultimately where I’d like to see more of our programming: free or low-cost and open to as wide a range of people as possible. The Mob is very different from our typical events in that it is all hootenanny…. there’s no teaching or sharing stories by the guest artists, which is always a part of our other events. Here, Brandon Niederauer will just be rocking out with everyone around him. The take-away will not be learning in a traditional sense, but hopefully it will be just as “educational”.

I love flash mobs because of the element of chance that’s involved. Who’s going to be walking on 23rd Street and Madison Avenue at 5:30pm on June 2nd? Who will be stopped in their tracks by ‘Purple Rain’ and have their afternoon transformed by being able to sing outside at the top of their lungs? Our flash mobs — Mash Mobs — take the element of surprise one step further in that we won’t really know who’s mobbing until right before showtime. There are teens who have signed up and plan to come to the rehearsal this weekend. But many will just be downloading the charts online and show up to play and sing the day of. It’s exciting, and a little scary.

I understand the mission of the event, but in your own words, what do you hope will be the result of children coming together in song to inspire the general public?

RW: Teens and tweens tend to be very passionate people. They are passionate about their friends, their beliefs about the world, their social media. I hope the flash mob sparks a recognition of the power that comes from singing out together, the way that I was touched and transformed as a kid seeing Pete Seeger and his banjo in front of the tall ships at the South Street Seaport, leading a crowd of hundreds around him in “Michael Row Your Boat Ashore”. The songs we’ve chosen for the Mash Mob are for the most part about acceptance and the possibility of change for good, but more importantly, it’s the collective action of playing and singing the same chord at the same time: there is great power and hope in that.

How can parents and people of all ages take this message and apply it beyond the event? How can they begin to make a difference in the world through music on a personal level?

RW: I always hope that people leave our events with the songs in their heads, and the charts in their hands, and like a game of tag, go on to have some kind of jam or sing-along of their own. The feeling of losing your “voice” in a crowd of other voices, of turning the “Me” and “You” into a “We”, is powerful and easily accomplished through song.

Since making music is one of the natural ways to express yourself and to connect with other people, I hope the notion that you have to be “good” at it to do it is dispelled. And this is not only true for kids. Too many adults say they “can’t” carry a tune, or aren’t musical. They rob themselves of something important and fundamental, and the message they pass to their kids isn’t so great either. Our music director Mark Stewart likes to say that too many people have been “cut off from their birthright as music makers.” That’s absolutely true.

Join the Mash Mob on June 2nd! Charts and video of the songs are available for download here….



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