Teens want everyone to rock with Bach

10:17 AM, Dec 22, 2013

Rob Kellogg, 15, of Rochester is part of a local company that has developed an interactive board game to improve kids' music appreciation skills. (KATE MELTON)/


Written By Caurie Putnam

Playing Rockin’ with Bach

Rockin’ with Bach ‘n’ the Gang is a board game about classical composers and their music. The object of the game is to become the soloist on Center Stage. This is accomplished by answering biographical questions about eight featured composers and identifying clips of music such as Bach’s Staccato in B minor and Camille Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals. The songs are recorded on a “piano” on the game board. Players try to accumulate Bach Bucks, the game’s currency, by correctly answering the questions and identifying the clips of music. Once a player collects eight Bach Bucks, they move to the Center Stage of the game where they answer harder, two-part questions. Game questions vary by skill level. The game can be played by two to eight players.
For Three of Hearts’ Indiegogo campaign, which goes through Jan. 5, go to indiegogo.com and search for Rockin’ with Bach. The company also has a website: 3ofh.com.

At a time when many school districts are cutting back on arts education, seven local teenagers think they could have part of the answer to how to improve music appreciation skills.

Rockin’ with Bach ‘n’ the Gang is an interactive board game that requires critical thought. It was the brainchild of Jake Blumenstock, 18, of Honeoye Falls.

Music has always been a huge influence in my life,” says Blumenstock, who conceived the educational game at age 6. “I would go to school and talk about classical music, but I didn’t see an interest. I decided I wanted to do something to change this.”

The teens now want to get their prototype to production.

The adventure started when Jake, then 9, and his then-13-year-old brother Gabriel, with the help of their mother, Claudia Blumenstock, founded Three of Hearts LLC. For the past eight years, company members have met weekly in the Blumenstocks’ home, where they craft and fine-tune every detail of Rockin’ with Bach, from packaging to programming to marketing, public relations and more.

Large 25-by-30-inch pieces of paper used during brainstorming sessions cover the Blumenstocks’ kitchen and dining room walls, the words scribbled on them hinting at the depth and breadth of their work: patent, Rossini, funding initiatives, prototype, Liszt.

The company now has an Indiegogo campaign that ends Jan. 2 to get the game to market. The company also is in the beginning stages of designing a second interactive, educational game about global climate change called Scorched Earth: Not a Bunch of Hot Air.

Rockin’ with Bach, which teaches kids about classical composers and their music, has 72 15-second clips of music from eight composers programmed into a standalone “piano,” which players wave a “listen” card over to activate.

Artwork for the game pieces was designed by children in New York City, and the center photo on the game board is of the University of Rochester’s Eastman Theatre (another lesson for them since they needed to get permission to use it).

It is mind-blowing what these kids have done,” says Claudia Blumenstock, who serves as Three of Hearts’ mentor, CEO and president. “They have saved $200,000 in costs just by what they have done with their graphics and electronics skills alone.”

Each company member has his or her own niche, whether it is knowledge of classical composers; the desire to speak in front of politicians and local business leaders about their work; or meeting with professionals from a local engineering firm who volunteer to mentor the company.

Originally, it was the game that attracted me to the group,” says Rob Kellogg, 15, of Rochester, who joined the company in 2011. “But more and more, my interest has been about marketing.”

Kellogg came up with a fundraising idea for the group to park cars on the lawn of his family’s home during the PGA Championship over the summer. The initiative netted the company $2,000.

That money, along with the Indiegogo campaign money, will go toward the company’s current push to get Rockin’ with Bach produced. The plan is to have some produced, then progress toward high-volume manufacturing of the games, which will be marketed to schools and the general public.

One of the most frustrating things is we have this great game, but we don’t have the money to produce it,” Jake Blumemstock says.

The company has done tests of the game at local schools that have gone well.

For example, at Hochstein School of Music and Dance, a 6-year-old girl played the game for the first time.

Her grandmother said, ‘Oh, she doesn’t know any composers, she won’t be able to identify them,’ ” Claudia Blumenstock says. “But she recognized patterns in the music being played by the board and was able to distinguish each composer’s style. It was remarkable.”

Company member Ariella Prosch Newman, 18, of Canandaigua is confident Rockin’ with Bach will eventually make it to a larger audience. But in the meantime, she is pleased with what the group has accomplished thus far.

It’s been a wonderful learning experience,” Prosch Newman says. “Everyone takes away more than just being able to say ‘We made a game’ and even that is astonishing alone.”