Education

Smokey Robinson takes Pio Pico Middle School to Motown

In this file photo, music legend Smokey Robinson speaks about pop star Michael Jackson at the
In this file photo, music legend Smokey Robinson speaks about pop star Michael Jackson at the "Michael Jackson Immortalized" event in Hollywood on Jan. 26, 2012.
Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images

Pio Pico Middle School became a surprise venue for a Wednesday morning performance featuring students in the school's music program — and Motown icon Smokey Robinson.

Robinson came to the school to help deliver new musical instruments and a $1 million donation from the Niagara Cares charity to Little Kids Rock, an organization that works to expand music education in schools. 

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Little Kids Rock has been working with the L.A. Unified School District for more than 10 years, spokesman Tony Sauza told KPCC. They've been training teachers with modern band methods, using instruments such as electric guitars, bass, drums and keyboards. Donations have been received from Hot Topic, Jack-In-The-Box and other companies.

“I guess we got on Niagara’s radar, and they really wanted to start off our partnership with a splash," Sauza said. "They figured they’d give us a million reasons to make that happen.”

Pio Pico's music program does a tribute to Motown every year, so Little Kids Rock felt it was the perfect choice for Smokey Robinson's appearance, Sauza said.

“So he was there in the front row ... they did 'You Really Got a Hold on Me,' and right before they started, one of the kids took the microphone off the mic stand and gave it to Smokey," Sauza said. "Then he got up and made his way on stage and he sang the entire song with the kids singing right alongside him. It was a great, great moment for all of them.”

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The impromptu performance was unexpected, with Robinson even singing to the school's music teacher Randy Rodarte for all the work that he does in the kids' musical education, Sauza said.

"It was very much a celebration, not just for the gift we received from Niagara, but a beautiful day to make music and celebrate all of the work that music educators do throughout the country, day in and day out," he said, adding that the $1 million donation allows Little Kids Rock to open up more than 100 music programs across the country.