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UCLA

Rocking Classroom

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By Jack Feuer, Photos by Alice Parente

Published Jul 1, 2010 9:00 AM


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Sacramento teacher Owen Jackman '89 knows how to rock out — and so do his students. For eight years, Jackman's 7th- and 8th-graders have played and swayed as The Leonardo Da Vinci Blues Band at Leonardo Da Vinci School, a highly regarded K-8 institution in Sacramento.

Comprised of both special education and general ed students, the band has entertained local and regional audiences in the Golden State capital at such venues as R5 Records, the Sutter Senior Center and regularly at the Very Special Arts Festival, which showcases the artistic accomplishments of students with disabilities.

Along the way, they've picked up some impressive fans, including Ellyne Bell, president of the Sacramento City School Board, who has raved about the rockers at board meetings, and local musician Larry Tagg, who played with Hall & Oates and Todd Rundgren, and was struck by how professional the kids sounded.

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This year's incarnation, overseen by Jackman, will perform classics like "Hold On, I'm Comin,'" "Good Golly, Miss Molly," "Shotgun," "Back in the USSR" and, somewhat incongruously, "Time Warp" from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Jackman, who's been playing music himself since he was 13 years old, started the band in 2002 as "a tribute to a [Blues Brothers] tribute band" called The John Belushi Memorial Blues Band. Working with professional musician Ned Hammad, he describes his role as "more like the manager from Spinal Tap. I make sure they turn in their paperwork, their grades are good and they stay out of trouble. Ned does most of the actual teaching."

The band began with 15 members, some of whom had never played an instrument before. This year's group totals 25 kids. In fact, the group has grown so large that it now stretches the limits of space in Jackman's classroom.

But Jackman's a Renaissance man and music is not his only passion. He's also a director-at-large of the Sacramento Area UCLA Alumni Club where, no doubt, he frequently sings the praises of a certain local rock band.

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