Kids music

Elk Grove music prodigy is National Ambassador for Children’s Music Day

Neil Nayyar has been a very busy young man.

Interviews for Los Angeles and Philadelphia television; daytime spots on Good Morning America as well as interviews on local radio and television.

The prolifically talented multi-instrumentalist from Elk Grove, player of over 110+ instruments, is seemingly everywhere as the official spokesperson for the annual Children’s Music Day, celebrated today.

“The message means a lot to me. Music education is very important for children,” Nayyar, 16, said Thursday during a brief break from the media blitz. “Being an ambassador – it’s worth it.”

The annual seventh day, a brainchild of Philadelphia-based music education nonprofit Keep Music Alive, tapped the 16-year-old Elk Grove prodigy to be the face of the effort of Kids Music Day in September.

As a Kids Music Day ambassador, Nayyar joins a roster of pop, rock and jazz personalities including Pat Benatar, Todd Rundgren, Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora and famed electric bassist Victor Wooten.

“We were so moved by his experience,” said Keep Music Alive founder Vincent James. Nayyar first contacted the foundation a few years ago, James said. Until this year, Kids Music Day ambassadors were all adults. That changed this year with young Neil.

“Neil’s name came to mind. Joy and passion flow through him so clearly. Who better (to be an ambassador) than someone who isn’t quite an adult yet,” James continued, saying Neil has used his story to inspire other kids to explore their own musical journeys. “It’s an idea that came to us late, but I’m happy with it.”

Keep Music Alive partners with hundreds of music stores, music schools and other arts organizations each year to organize special musical activities for young people. Events and programs range from free music lessons and student performances to community music jam sessions, instrument donation drives and young performers’ open mics.

Anything can be very important to a youngster’s musical development and helps students in the classroom and beyond, Nayyar said.

Music “helps children do better in school. It builds trust,” Nayyar said. “Studies show that kids who play music do better in math, science and reading and want to stay in school.”

Parents can also play an important role, said the musical teenager from Elk Grove. Taking your child to the local music store or looking for free music lessons in your community are ways to expose children to musical instruments and performances.

“We’re not trying to have every child become a professional musician. We want to show them that there are many benefits to playing music,” James said. “We try to give them the best chance in life, no matter what they choose.”

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Darrell Smith is the Elk Grove reporter for The Sacramento Bee. He joined The Bee in 2006 and previously worked at newspapers in Palm Springs, Colorado Springs and Marysville. Smith was born and raised at Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville, and lives in Elk Grove.