Give Music Life Newsletter: January 2015

A monthly newsletter to keep you in key with the Fender Music Foundation.

If all of our more than 2000 newsletter subscribers made a commitment of only $5 each month, we we would be able to deliver 400 instruments monthly to the music education and therapy programs that we support across United States. Please donate today and help us Give Music Life!

Special needs students thrive with guitars and gear from the Foundation

There are many studies about music’s benefit in education, especially for students with special educational needs. The Katherine Thomas School (KTS) Director Rhona Schwartz gladly accept the challenge to create a dynamic music program tailored to meet those needs. Since starting in 1995, KTS has provided children with language and learning disabilities an invaluable education that includes music.

The school serves over 130 students from preschool through 12th grade from Maryland, DC, and Northern Virginia. Over the years, KTS has significantly expanded its services and programs to better serve their students and that means having two music rooms and a dedicated music teacher, Chris Marousek.

But when adding a music program component, funding is always an issue.

“Rhona brought the Fender Music Foundation Grant information to my attention,” says Chris. “We applied in the fall of 2013 because our students and our program had been developed to its fullest potential with our previous resources.”

KTS qualified and received a variety of Fender and Cordoba guitars. Chris feels the donation will help raise the level of performance beyond expectations and one such student highlights the impact the instruments have had on their program.

“Joey is one of our greatest success stories as a result of this grant. He came to the music class from a highly structured individualized program,” Chris says. Music has helped Joey in so many ways, such as with his social skills, motivation and behavior, he says. “He has even been inspired to build his own musical instruments at home and Joey’s confidence builds daily with music.”

Together the Fender Music Foundation working with KTS can bring more opportunities to those in need. Now each student plays with a full-size guitar and some have been modified with colored strings to help them learn how to play, Chris says.

New instruments also bring new music genre exploration which leads to creativity and combinations to form ensembles and bands.

“This grant has completely revitalized our music program and I only see it growing from here. We get together and play these instruments every day,” Chris says. “I feel we are just getting started with what we now have the resources to be able to do!”


Music is the only prescription for this Marine

Cpl. Brad Fite is a retired Marine and like many who return from war, he carries scars–both physical and mental.  After being blown up by a roadside bomb while on a combat mission in Afghanistan and enduring multiple life-saving surgeries, Brad fought the sense of hopelessness and yet began the long and painful journey of recovery. One that did not guarantee his survival.

Today without hesitation he’d say it’s miraculous to be standing before you. Simply because the doctors said it’s unlikely he would ever walk again and to leave one war only to fight another with highly addictive painkillers, Brad attempted suicide multiple times. Living a life with a battered body and a bruised mind seemed hopeless, he says.

Then quite unexpectedly Brad’s fortunes changed for the better.

“A day after my third failed (suicidal) attempt, a man, whom I had never seen before, walked into my room with two guitars and asked me if I played,” he says. “I told him I did and he came in and sat by my bedside and we played music together for nearly 3 hours.”

The mysterious man turned out to be a Vietnam War veteran and the two had few words together yet spoke volumes as each note emanated from their guitars.

“It was time for him to go and he left the guitar with me, saying it was a good listener and assured me I could trust it,” Brad says. “That night I sat in my hospital room and penned my first song: Dead Man.”

It was here he realized the power of song writing, both creatively and psychologically. For it was the words in the songs he wrote and the music he played that have ultimately replaced the pills in the bottles.

“After writing that song, I immediately felt a release! A release of pain. Of emotion. Of anger. I felt good for the first time in months,” he says.  “I kept writing and I kept playing music.”

It wasn’t long until Brad was discharged from the hospital and stationed at Camp Pendleton’s Wounded Warrior Battalion. He pondered what to do next since retiring from the Marine Corps. Enjoying the “healing” effects of music, he chose to share this new found remedy through weekly music classes at the Battalion.

“I started teaching other wounded guys around me how to play and how to use music as a therapeutic escape from the pain we were all fighting,” he says.

And from this desire to help others grew the WarriorSong Foundation, where Brad shows fellow Marines to use the tools of music for dealing with pain. Now WarriorSong has joined forces with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer Matt Sorum, who heads Global Sound Lodge, a nonprofit that supports active service members who suffer from PTSD.

“Together we are not only teaching music to these Vets, but now we are giving them the opportunity to record their music with music celebrities,” he says.

GuitarCenter Foundation also shares the value of music in helping those in the military and has agreed to donate a number of instruments to the Camp Pendleton Wounded Warriors Battalion on behalf of Cpl. Fite.

Today Brad holds a new view on life and wants to share it with anyone who’ll listen. Whether it’s the songs from his band, the words in his upcoming book “Life After Death”, his soon-to-be released music album, or public speaking, the former Marine has a lot to offer.

La Academia de Estrellas: where students shine!

Jesse Dunn, the music and choir director of La Academia de Estrallas school sees opportunity in his music program. His students not only express their creativity through music but have developed traits in leadership and teamwork.

In addition to recognizing the self-improvement in the students, Jesse as a music teacher also understands the importance of music education and what more can be gained with such programs. “Not only does music help to improve math and reading skills, but it is important for honing fine motor skills and creative expression,” he says. While most in the music class have little or no experience playing electric guitar, Jesse says those that have taken an interest have become quite confident and enjoy playing.

“La Academia de Estrellas and our students are very thankful for the opportunity to learn music at a high level which is made possible by the Fender Music Foundation,” he says. “On behalf of our faculty and students I would like to extend our sincerest gratitude.”

This issue’s update is on grantee Teri Inc., a non-profit organization located in Oceanside, California, that serves children and adults with developmental disabilities. The Foundation also met with its Director of Performance Arts, George Thompson, and one of his students, Bryan, at this year’s NAMM. Below is a video of Bryan playing on a set of DW Drums that was donated by the Foundation.

According to Bryan’s mother, Lori, his love of drums began in church. He would sit in the front row and enthusiastically play “air” drums.  “It made everyone smile,” she says. After a number of attempts to find the right music program for her son, Lori discovered Teri Inc. and it was the perfect fit.

“When we came to tour Teri, Inc. (and) he was very impressed by the music room and the BIG drum,” she says. “This is the first time he’s performed with a band for any type of audience and he really loves it. It makes us very happy to see him so excited to go to Teri each day.”

Featured Artist: Sebastian Janoski

ReverbNation is an online platform that helps musicians cultivate lasting careers by introducing them to industry partners, fans, and developing tools to promote their success. Artists may choose to donate half of their song proceeds to a charity and Sebastian Janoski has selected the Foundation. He was more than happy to answer our questions and help us introduce him to our readers.

Please tell us what you get from making music or why you enjoy it?

Writing and performing music whether it’s an original or a cover gives me a chance to express myself, and I feel so free whenever I’m on stage… as if I can be a completely different person.

Why did you choose to support FMF as your charity on ReverbNation?

FMF is something I support very strongly because I think that music education should be even more celebrated in schools than it already is. Music is something that has helped me through a lot of tough times whether it be listening to music on my iPod or going to a rehearsal for a show. I believe it’s something that should be more appreciated and focused on in school.

What’s going on now?

I’ve been focusing on my brand new song that is featured in the movie “Natural Selection” and it’s soundtrack, set to release in early to mid 2015. I am also focusing on writing new music and auditioning. I have a lead role in a production of “The Little Mermaid” now and I have a scheduled audition for Broadway coming up.  Also, I am in the middle of recording some brand new originals due to release mid-year.

Plans for the future?

For the future I plan on continuing my career involving music. Every year for the past three years have been great years and I’ve had some amazing experiences and opportunities, but, each year I realize is better and happier. As I grow in my passion for music, bigger and bigger opportunities seem to show themselves. So, I have huge hopes for the future. People can keep tabs on me

The Foundation staff went to this year’s NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) convention with a new approach. Rather than setting up a booth and hoping to meet the right people, we roamed the floors of the Anaheim Convention Center and introduced ourselves to merchants and artists. All to establish new relationships and have a good time! Here’s a glimpse of our experiences.


What did you enjoy most while at NAMM? For example: Meeting with a particular merchant/vendor and/or seeing the numerous artists performing?

Distribution Coordinator Robert Huntley: I enjoyed both meeting with current supporters to say thank you and getting to see impromptu live performances by talented artists.


What did you hope to learn or achieve at this year’s NAMM? For example: Did you have a goal or mission in mind and were you successful?

Executive Director Lynn Robison (on right): I hoped to expand and strengthen awareness of our organization and its needs within the industry in addition to gaining commitments from companies to support the backlog of product and materials our Grantees have expressed a need for.  Towards this effort I met with 17 companies and was able to gain commitment and establish relationships with 17 companies. These companies spanned orchestra/band instruments, classical and electric guitars, amps, accessories and teaching material segments.

What experience or impression did you take from NAMM?

Correspondent Valerie Sipprelle: It turned out to be an very enlightening experience for me to introduce myself to marketing people and seeing their enthusiasm when they pictured the possibility of helping our Foundation.  It was exciting to meet so many people who care about music education and was pleasantly surprised to find so many vendors who conveyed their interest in helping with music therapy.


What did you hope to learn or achieve at this year’s NAMM?

Social Media Marketer Chris Flynn: I went into NAMM with the vision of being more fully engaged with the decision-makers of instrument manufacturers and promoters with the intent to learn about their products and/or programs. It’s important in a dialogue that you remember the other person and what they have to say. I’m enthusiastic about all that we achieved this year’s NAMM and look forward to the rewards of our hard work.


What did you enjoy most while at NAMM? For example: Meeting with a particular merchant/vendor and/or seeing the numerous artists performing?

Chief Graphic Artist Shannon Yamanaka: I enjoyed seeing the design of all the merchant booths, along with all the awesome products! It was great to hear talented musicians play their various instruments.

Poetic Justice?

  • During the Foundation’s visit to NAMM, we received a great response from band, orchestra, percussion, guitar and accessory companies with 2015 promising to offer a greater variety of instruments to our grantees.
  • We are excited about upcoming crowdfunding and marketing campaigns with Diana Ross at the Venetian; the Anaheim Angels; and the Sound of Surf.
  • The Foundation will host several benefit concerts which are progressing well. Two events have solid commitments: March Field Air Museum and Reggie Calloway at the Ivar Theatre.
  • NAMM provided a great face-to-face experience as well as growing our online audience with more than 800 new likes on Facebook, totaling just shy of 41,000. Twitter and Instagram were a hit with videos being the most popular posts.