East Falls: Schools Use Music and Martial Arts to Promote Positive Changes

Daniel Cullen played guitar in the room where students are given drum lessons.

Rawk U School of Music Rocks

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Music has been a part of Daniel Cullen’s life ever since he first picked up an acoustic guitar when he was 11 years old. Now Cullen has the opportunity to share his passion for music with others through Rawk U School of Music.

“I know I’m pretty lucky, first of all, so I try to think of that every day,” Cullen said. “I know most people don’t get to make a living off of something that they truly have an interest or a passion for so it’s a pretty satisfying feeling at the end of the day.”

Daniel Cullen, owner of Rawk U School of Music, played guitar in the room where students are given drum lessons.

The music school, which Cullen founded in 2008, first started in his house in South Philadelphia, but a growing roster of students forced him to find another space. Now, located at 3502 Scotts Lane in Sherman Mills, Cullen is able to teach a wide variety of students ranging from 8 to 60 years old.

Working with local schools in the past, Cullen started the music school so that he could teach music in a different way.

“Some music schools want you to teach the basics like how to read music right away,” Cullen said. “I like to get someone playing right away so they have some tangible result. I always go back to the basics. I just do it in a roundabout way.”

Cullen said he believes that music helps other aspects in students’ lives.

“I think the basic thing that music really teaches is a sense of self-worth and discipline,” Cullen said. “If you’re going to have to sit and practice something for half an hour to 45 minutes a day, then that’s showing a skill that can be carried on later in life. It’s really just focus and energy spent on one task and seeing what the results can be when you put a lot of time into something.”

Cullen said music has not only helped his students in this aspect but has also helped him as well.

Daniel Cullen stood in the office of Rawk U School of Music.

“It’s helped me just learn how to keep things in order and have a focus in life and get things done in an orderly fashion,” Cullen said. “If I didn’t have that kind of intense focus, I don’t think I’d be able to do stuff like what I do now like run my own business. The drive to always continue to want to get better is still there in my life.”

Cullen said that the school has helped at least one student change his life for the better.


Joey Carioti, who is from an underprivileged area in Port Richmond, began working with Cullen three years ago. Carioti later approached Cullen for help in preparing an audition piece for the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts.

“Now he’s going to school for free for four years,” Cullen said. “He said to me before [that] if he didn’t have music in his life, he might have gotten into some trouble [and] gone down a totally different path so I feel proud of that fact that I helped him get into [the school].”

Daniel Cullen played guitar at Rawk U School of Music.

As for the future of Rawk U School of Music, Cullen said he would like to expand the number of students to the point of opening a second school in order to accommodate the numbers. Cullen said he would also like to get involved with local schools in order to expose more young students to music.

Rawk U School of Music can be reached at 215-844-7295.

School Uses Martial Arts to Help Mental Growth

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Among the many types of art found in Sherman Mills, ranging from glass works to music and dance to photography, a different type of art thrives. Located at 3502 Scotts Lane, House of Martial Balance is a martial arts school that teaches two separate disciplines under one roof.

“It came out of my head as a desire to give someone a true sense of martial balance. That’s why we have the Japanese and the Chinese,” said Khalid Newton, senior instructor at the school.  “We want to create a healing aspect to the martial arts. If the need comes when we need to hurt someone and do damage to them, you should be able to repair that damage.”

Instructors Khalid Newton and Sean Burden taught Iyaad Abdus Shaheed, Elijah Wilson and Juwayriyyah Mobley at House of Martial Balance.

The school teaches Chinese martial arts styles such as Tien Shan Pai and Ta’i Chi Ch’uan, and Japanese martial arts styles such as Ichikawa-Ha Goju-ryu and Ten-Chi.

“The main difference [between the martial arts styles] is the way it’s expressed,” Newton said, “because all martial arts is based on the same principles. The art is the same. It’s just the way it’s expressed.”

The expressions are different due to the environment each discipline grew out of. Northern kung fu styles, such as Tien Shan Pai, use long-range movements because of the open spaces in which they developed. The southern styles feature close-range movements because they developed in closed spaces such as canals and houses.

The school uses martial arts to emphasize that the physical has a causal relationship with the mental.

Elijah Wilson stood in a fighting stance at House of Martial Balance

“[The physical] affects the plasticity of the person’s brain, be it a child or adult,” Newton said. “The more physical [and] the more exhausting it is, the more neurons are being developed in a person’s mind.”

Newton said the neurons that are being developed help those who may have ADHD or Alzheimer’s disease develop a larger mental capacity.

“It stops all that and it’s that simple,” Newton said. “Just maintain a healthy, active lifestyle where you’re really going out and working your butt off [and] learning a skill and that’s just going to carry you through your lifetime, hopefully.”

The Alzheimer’s Association said keeping the brain active increases its vitality and may build its reserves of brain cells and connections, with the possibility of generating new brain cells.

Newton said that while House of Martial Balance does not offer programs that aim specifically towards those with diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, the school is making efforts to expand its reach.

Khalid Newton, senior instructor at House of Martial Balance, instructed Elijah Wilson.

“We’re trying to initiate some contact with some nursing homes,” Newton said, “and tell them, ‘Look, this is what we have to offer and this is how we would like to help you.’”

House of Martial Balance can be reached at 215-833-0328.

For information about other programs at Sherwin Mills, go to these stories at https://bit.ly/Usn9cb

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