Brian Rothschild began writing music and songs at age 15 and upon graduating from Hampshire College, he was signed as an artist with Columbia Records under the name Iam Siam. In 1998, along with Yoko Ono Lennon, he created the first version of the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus and has since devoted his time to expanding the project around the world. Today, Lennon Bus U.S. and Lennon Bus Europe provide young people with free, hands-on opportunities to create original digital media projects including music, videos, short films, documentaries, games, apps and livestream productions reflective of their ideas and concerns.  


A frequent spokesperson for the Lennon Bus, he has appeared on the Today ShowCBS Evening NewsGood Morning AmericaBBCFox NewsMTVE! News and been a speaker at events and conferences including UNESCO Youth Forum, SXSW and TED, to name only a few. 

Stay Thirsty Magazine was pleased to visit with Brian Rothschild at his home in New York City for these Five Questions.


STAY THIRSTY: It has been over 22 years since The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus was created with a mission to stimulate, encourage and promote students' interest and appreciation in music. Why is music education so important in the K-12 environment? Why is it important to you?

Brian Rothschild

BRIAN ROTHSCHILD: Aside from all the empirical evidence outlining the value of music education, music remains a universal language that allows people from all walks of life to connect and share ideas and feelings. Engagement in music making encourages creativity, collaboration and discipline. A visit by the Lennon Bus is designed to inspire the students, teachers and community to imagine peace. 

Personally, maybe it’s because my mom was a music educator, but I’ve always seen the power that music has to bring people together and spread joy. It’s a really great gift to leverage John’s legacy on behalf of the next generation of creators and leaders.

The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus

STAY THIRSTY: How has the mission and use of the Bus evolved since its inception? What three things have you learned about how best to deliver a unique music experience to students and their teachers? How has the pandemic affected your ability to visit schools and work with the students?


BRIAN ROTHSCHILD: The mission has always been the same and that is to provide young people with free opportunities to be creative. As technology has evolved, the Lennon Bus and our programs evolved to include video production and all kinds of digital media. Pre-COVID we had programs for small, medium and large groups including the formation of community-based giant human peace signs. Today, we’re working on a cloud-based curriculum for high school students interested in music production and songwriting. 



STAY THIRSTY: The Bus is also a frequent visitor on college campuses where students receive tours of the bus's high-tech equipment and can participate in events and make digital videos. How does the energy and impact of the Bus on a college campus differ from spending time with high school students? What are the most important takeaways you want the students to have after your day at their school?


BRIAN ROTHSCHILD: College and university stops also include tours of the Lennon Bus studios, student production sessions, live music, promotions with local bookstores and opportunities for high school students to visit the campus, many of whom have never seen themselves in that environment. Past events have frequently partnered with campus affairs to bring artists and speakers into the mix. 


The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus studio

STAY THIRSTY: The Bus also works with established and famous musicians and bands. In the past artists like Blacked Eyed Peas and Justin Timberlake have recorded on the Bus and some artists have participated in outreach programs. How supportive have the music and recording industries been and do you have any large collaboration projects planned?


BRIAN ROTHSCHILD: There’s no question that having celebrated artists involved has helped the program to survive and grow. Their support and interest is a testament to the extraordinary contribution made by John Lennon to music, art, culture and activism. This year’s celebration of John’s 80th includes the Lennon Bus Instagram Live event featuring Elle King, RZA, Ricki Lake, Verdine White from Earth, Wind & Fire and DJ Tommie Sunshine celebrating the release of the new John Lennon collection, entitled Gimme Some Truth, produced by Yoko and Sean Lennon.


Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) on The John Lennon Songwriting Contest

STAY THIRSTY: How did The John Lennon Songwriting Contest come about? Did winning the contest launch songwriting careers for the winners?


BRIAN ROTHSCHILD: The Lennon Contest came before the Lennon Bus, and Yoko liked the idea of providing opportunities to songwriters who wouldn’t otherwise have access to the music business. We are in our 24th Annual contest right now with over $300k in cash awards and prizes, and it keeps evolving! Since COVID began we created weekly opportunities for songwriters to win even more gear from sponsors including Gibson, Audio-Technica, OWC, Reason Studios, Neutrik and Genelec studio monitors.


Over the years many of the winners have expressed just how meaningful their win has been to their careers including Meghan Trainor, Gaby Moreno, Magic!, Lake Street Dive, and more.




Brian Rothschild

The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus  

The John Lennon Songwriting Contest   

All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.