Steve Miller Fundraiser Doesn’t “Fly Like an Eagle”

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February 23, 2012; Source: Temecula Patch

Remember the Steve Miller Band, led by extraordinary guitarist Steve Miller? Hits like “Fly Like an Eagle,” “The Joker,” “Rock ‘N Me” from the 1970s? Miller is on the board of the Corona, Calif. nonprofit Fender Center, also known as the Fender Museum of the Arts. Its educational mission is to promote music education in schools, a laudable goal.

Recently, Miller and the Fender Center worked with the Context Middle School charter school in Temecula to raise money for the Kids Rock Free program. This article from the Temecula Patch identifies the program as Context’s, but Kids Rock Free is a trademarked educational curriculum and online teaching program offered by the Fender Center. Miller and the Fender Center worked with the charter to put on a show last September to raise money for Context’s use of the Kids Rock Free program.

Although Miller performed for free, there were costs to be paid for his musicians, equipment, and so forth, which the school and the Fender Center agreed to split, but two days after Miller’s performance, the school went into radio silence. Shortly thereafter, Context went out of business. Eventually Context paid $35,000 toward the costs, but that left an even larger number that the school owed but didn’t pay.

The tip was in the first payment. It was accompanied by incomplete accounting information. Later, it became clear that the $35,000 came from the concert proceeds. Initially, the shutdown was blamed on the economy, but now there are charges of mismanagement, attributed to the Context board member who originally brought Miller and Fender into the scene.

There are plenty of examples of celebrities whose delivery of the charitable goods isn’t quite what they say. That doesn’t seem to be the case for Miller. He has reportedly donated over $1 million to the Fender Center. He takes Kids Rock Free kids on tour with him and when performing, he launches into short lectures on the need for musical education in the nation’s public schools. The failure of Context seems to have struck many as unexpected. For the Context kids who will be deprived of the support for their musical education (as well as their now closing school), and for Miller himself (who actually gave two concerts for the school’s program), the situation is best summed up by eighth grader Kylee Roberts: “It kind of sucks.”—Rick Cohen