“Songs for Kids” brings a different kind of set to Shaky Knees’ Lineup. The band has performed at the Atlanta Indie Rock Festival for eight years. While many performers at Shaky Knees play for a crowd of adoring, committed fans, “Songs for Kids” act consists of children and young adults showcasing their newly earned skills to their supporters.
Josh Rifkind created the Songs for Kids Foundation in 2007 after looking for a change in his career.
“I was a music manager for a long time,” says Rifkind. “Halfway through that, I started to want my life to mean something more.”
The foundation’s executive director decided to use music to reach kids with disabilities.
“We play music and mentor through music to kids with illnesses, injuries, and disabilities,” says Rifkind. “It could be kids who are hospitalized who really want to explore anything musical whether it’s songwriting, learning to play guitar, and rocking out a performance with us.”
Shaky Knees offers Songs for Kids a chance to showcase their skills after years of practice, says Rifkind.
“Today, we had a few kids on stage with some of us who have been working with us for years and just building up their sense of self when it comes to music,” says Rifkind.
The foundation is centered in Atlanta and reaches statewide and nationally.
“We have a center in Downtown Atlanta near Centennial Olympic Park,” says Rifkind. “We have a big center where kids can come in for free with their families and we have a stage, lights, sound, and a studio. They can jump on whatever, if it’s a beat machine, the drums, or the microphones.
“It’s kind of a national organization that started here,” continued Rifkind. “Because of generous people in this state, kids in Spokane, Washington are getting amazing music from our mentors.”
Rifkind says his inspiration comes from his father and his love of music.
“My dad is a doctor and he retired during the pandemic,” says Rifkind. “He was always my idol and still is. It’s cool to bring all of those elements together—medicine, and people that are overlooked or could use some love.”
The foundation had to adapt as the pandemic presented challenges in the way of their mission.
“Throughout the pandemic, we did a ton of stuff with our kids who were homebound more than most people and it was cool to keep up the relationship during that time period,” says Rifkind. “We never stopped like some businesses that just went away or laid people off. We still have a lot of people that are on Zoom, but it’s been fun to see people again.”
Rifkind says that the foundation must split its efforts between providing services and fundraising for those services to allow the foundation to grow.
“We have an extraordinary number of people that are trying to get into the program now that we can see each other safely again [with precautions].”
Rifkind is happy to have Songs for Kids be a part of Shaky Knees year after year.
“It’s great to have the support,” says Rifkind. “I’ve known everyone associated with me for so long. It’s like family.”
The foundation is planning on growing and has exciting events on the horizon.
“We’re just trucking along, doing some cool stuff,” says Rifkind. “We have a big event we’re announcing in May. I think it’s gonna be a pretty historic event. I think we’re doing pretty good.”
To access services and programs in the Songs for Kids foundation, check out https://www.songsforkids.org.