Give Music Life Newsletter: February

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

Make a monthly donation of only $10 (simply choose donation frequency on our Network For Good page) and help us place approximately 400 instruments each month into music education and therapy programs that we support across the country. A monthly contribution will show your dedication to helping the Foundation reach its goals and have a lasting impact on these programs.

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Bringing smiles to Hyde Square Task Force’s Music Clubhouse

GuitarCenter Foundation doesn’t provide cookie cutter grants. While requests for stringed instruments, especially guitars, are a mainstay, the Foundation’s donations span a diverse array of equipment. Amps, stands, benches, gear bags, basses and keyboards are just a few examples. Yet it might surprise many to know that the Foundation recently provided 4 djembes in a rainbow of primary colors to Boston’s Hyde Square Task Force.

What’s a djembe? It’s a hand drum that is one of West Africa’s best-known instruments. When Hyde Square Task Force needed authentic instruments for their Music Clubhouse program, they turned to the Foundation for help.

“For more than seven years, we’ve given young people the chance to learn about and play all different styles of music. Drumming is our most-requested music lesson, but before the Fender Music Foundation’s generous donation we were limited in the number of lessons we could offer, ” says Brenda Rodriguez-Andujar, Hyde Square Task Force director of arts and cultural programs. “These instruments allow us to offer more extensive percussion lessons, and we can incorporate more drumming into our youths’ musical ensembles.”

The Hyde Square Task Force’s Music Clubhouse serves more than 150 youth ages 10-18 every year who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to experience music. The services are provided for free.

“We were eager to give our youth a chance to learn music, rehearse, compose, and perform on truly high-quality instruments, so we applied,” says Brenda of the Foundation’s grant process.

The Foundation supports all musical genres and worked to fulfill Hyde Square Task Force’s wish list for djembe’s so that they in turn could meet the need of Boston’s community. Hyde Square Task Force uses the instruments for students to challenge themselves creatively through lessons and performance. The new drums make music accessible and provide an immediate bond. The Foundation also provided a beautiful rosewood bench to foster students playing together.

Brenda says the majority of their students attend under-resourced public schools with few arts classes. Most come from low-income households and over half speak English as a second language. Through strong community partnerships with Music and Youth Initiative and the Berklee College of Music that provides students who help mentor and instruct, Hyde Square Task Force opens an exciting door to music exploration for youth.

The children of the Music Clubhouse program really enjoy playing the new instruments and their confidence while performing has grown day by day. Much of the newfound enthusiasm can be traced to the Foundation’s donation as the program’s original equipment was either worn out or broken, Brenda says.

“We would like to thank the Fender Music Foundation again for their generous gift,” she says.

Community Music Center of Boston

Over a century ago, the Community Music Center of Boston (CMCB) set out to be more than just a music school to the members of its community.  To achieve this goal, faculty and staff worked hard to turn CMCB into a “creative hub” where anyone of their more than 5000 weekly members experience a “self transformation” through the music they love.

One such staff member, Jazz and Popular Music Instructor Chuck Gabriel, says the key to achieving their mission is by providing the best possible music lessons in an open and encouraging environment. Then from there students are introduced to a wide variety of musical styles, and taught by professional musicians with frequent opportunities to perform.

“Because of these opportunities, students learn the value of preparation, responsibility and initiative,” he says. Throughout the neighborhoods of Boston, CMCB links its students to peers who have diverse musical and cultural backgrounds, he says. “In addition to developing their musicianship, students frequently form social bonds outside of their regular environments, and through their preparation and performance, learn confidence.”

Chuck sees examples of his students going through a sort of self transformation. Natalie, 19, recalls excitedly how playing the Fender Jazz bass opened her eyes to taking risks creatively and joining others to express themselves musically.

“Playing the electric bass in a jazz combo (class) opened a whole world of improvising, chord structure, and being the rhythm in a musical group,” she says.  Although it’s the musician that does the work, Natalie credits the high quality sound she produces to Fender’s reputation for quality instruments. “Jazz combo and Fender have allowed my playing to grow more musically and with a greater sense of confidence. I thank them for that,” she says.

CMCB Director of Development, Brent Parrish, is tasked with the responsibility of keeping its music programs funded and as with any non-profit organization there are many challenges in finding support. Having learned some of the top instrument manufacturers donate equipment to community programs, Brent applied for grant with the Foundation and was awarded several Squier guitars, a Fender Jazz bass and accessories.

CMCB is an accredited non-profit music school that has traditionally supported impoverished communities, Brent says. “With the help of instrument gifts, we are able to continue to provide excellent music education to individuals and groups of diverse backgrounds and abilities, transforming lives citywide.”

Taos Youth Music School

A small music school in Taos County, New Mexico, takes a different approach by using music education and performance art to help “nurture” the benefits in children to be a lifelong experience. For 15 years now Taos Youth Music School (TYMS) has used this philosophy to bring the children of their community together using song and dance.

The TYMS program uses choir and band settings to instill in its students “enhanced musical knowledge” but to also help them develop skills involving teamwork, creative expression, and critical thinking. Its Executive Director Gwen Thompson believes “music is transformative and it impacts kids in a profound way.” So much so that to date all enrolled students in their music program have gone on to receive high school diplomas or equivalent GED.

Approximately 20 percent of Taos County lives at or below the poverty level. Coupled with schools slashing arts programs due to budget constraints, Gwen says most of their students wouldn’t otherwise have access to the “high caliber of creating training without TYMS.” Although some of the arts programs are returning within the school district, she’s glad their program is available to offer additional help to children in the community.

One such student, Sara, in just a few years with the TYMS program has matured artistically and personally. “Last fall she auditioned for a local production of Annie-and she credits her time with TYMS for giving her not only the musical training but the confidence and poise that encouraged her to audition,” Gwen says.

Sara’s story is just one of many according to Gwen. Elizabeth, 15, started with TYMS at the tender age of four and today is not only a very talented singer but a student representative on their Board of Directors. “She is a strong and confident young woman, and gives credit to TYMS in part,” she says.

These are just a couple of examples of the impact TYMS has had with Gwen having been fortunate enough to witness firsthand the personal growth–both musically and socially–of her students.

Free of tuition, the TYMS program operates on a tight budget and it relies on the support of private individuals and organizations like the Fender Music Foundation. “The donation of quality instruments from FMF has been enormously important for our program, and we are most grateful for this support,” she says.

Franklin Towne Charter

As a relatively small high school (approximately 1200 students) Franklin Towne Charter (FTC) in Philadelphia boasts a high graduation rate and teacher Shea Stevens believes their music program not only develops music abilities in their students but fosters teamwork and a greater sense of confidence. Where many school districts across the nation are dropping arts programs and focusing exclusively on math and science, FTC uses music to help its students learn without the pressure of standardized tests which are required in most other subjects, Shea Says.

Melissa, a once very shy student, now performs with classmates on keyboard. The music program at FTC has instilled a level of confidence in her where she now actively seeks to perform before an audience.

More than half of the students at FTC are impoverished and the school’s music program  give them a chance they otherwise wouldn’t have two learn and create music. “In this way, our music program supplements our school’s goal to empower students and help them realize they can succeed,” Shea says.

Featured Artist: Wild Ride

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 a charity to support and LA-based rock group Wild Ride donates 50% of their song proceeds to the Foundation. The band consists of lead guitar/singer Marc Marek; drummer/singer Kerri Berry; and bass player Charley Tichenor IV / Bob Saldana. We are happy to introduce them to our readers.

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

“There is nothing more fulfilling than being proud about something you have created. I especially like to use uplifting, positive lyrics in my songs, so that I can send positive vibrations into the Universe,” Kerri says. “Music is something I wanted to be involved with from a very young age, so knowing that your music can be used to benefit others (such as Fender Music Foundation), is a great feeling,” she says. “The first time I held a tambourine was in school, so I know how important it is to have music education programs.”

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

“I always feel it’s important to give back to the community. When Marek and I read about the Fender Music Foundation on Reverbnation, we decided we’d like to donate 50% of our sales on Reverbnation to FMF,” Kerri says. “Marek has played with a Fender Stratocaster since 2000 [and] he has two Fender Stratocasters, a Fender Telecaster, and a Fender Squier bass.”

What’s going on now?

“We have just released our first full-length album, Running Man, and are currently touring California and nearby States to promote it,” Marc says. “We are also working on some new songs for our next album.”

Plans for the future?

“We are excited to be playing with 80’s band Berlin, on July 10th, 2015 at The Canyon Club, in Agoura Hills, CA., and plan to do a few shows in Europe in August/September,” Marc says.

  • We are happy to announce that California customers may now purchase memorabilia from the Foundation’s online store. Check it out!  Also when on Amazon you may now choose the Foundation as part of the AmazonSmile program.
  • The Mu Beta Psi, the National Honorary Musical Service Fraternity at Rutgers University held its fifth annual Snowball charity event and successfully raised more than $1000 for the Foundation. Thank you very much from everyone at FMF.
  • Foundation staff members will be attending this year’s Career Expo at California Lutheran University to promote our mission and recruit new interns and volunteers.