The nonprofit organization helps to provide formal musical education to 5,000 students from 25 different schools in the Chicago Public School system. Their staff features a classical pianist, a music therapist, a musical director for professional theater productions, and even a professional hip-hop historian among many other talented professionals.
We wanted to follow up with them after our successful promotion so we reached out to Executive Director, Steve Hartley, and Program Director, Brenda Fineberg to learn about the many ways in which they’re improving the lives of the city’s at-risk youth.
The foundation offers three programs. The first of these is Direct Instruction, a general, weekly music offering that provides kids with “a more engaging way to learn, communicate, and artistically express themselves,” Brenda explained.
They also offer a songwriting and production class, which has small groups of middle school students working with musical professionals to make their own hip-hop and rap songs with actual equipment. “They learn how to use instruments for tracks, how to write songs and create rhythms, and how to produce professional-sounding music.”
The third program is Ensembles in Residence, where the foundation partners with blues and jazz bands to interact with targeted age groups. “These kids then have the opportunity to work with the ensemble and understand the history of the music they’re learning to play; how blues or jazz, for example, relates to things they study in the classroom in a social and historical context.”
The Benefits of Musical Education
Brenda is a staunch advocate for musical education and she wanted us to know exactly how these programs have enriched the lives of the students and general education.
“The National Endowment of the Arts has produced studies which show that students engaged in music and arts learn to read better and learn math more easily. Music is a pathway for facilitating learning, a reachable vehicle for self-expression at any age. Kids as young as kindergarten will pick out emotions and moods in music, create that in themselves, and so access a basic way of expressing and connecting with their emotions. They become socially engaged.”
Steve told us “Studies show that giving kids access to these types of programs makes them far more likely to be successful in the future, to have higher test scores, to become voting adults and better citizens. Chicago obviously has neighborhoods with less resources, and it’s important to us that we bring the benefits of musical education to kids in those areas; that we empower them.”
A West-Side Success Story
Brenda and Steve shared the story of one of their students on the West side of the city. His performance in school had become so worrisome that his principal had approached Foundations of Music, asking that they enroll him in one of their programs.
Entering their production class quickly helped the student become reengaged in school. He loved exploring the production side of music, and with the guidance of his music teacher, the student and his father set up their own at-home recording studio. Now he could pursue his new passion outside of the classroom.
“I talked to him a few weeks ago, actually,” Brenda told us joyfully, “He just graduated from middle school, and now he’s going to a private catholic school on the West Side. We’re all really excited about the potential of his passion for music and can’t wait to see where he goes with it in the future.”
So What Did Our Donation Do?
We wanted to see what our donation had accomplished for Foundation of Music. Steve told us that “90% of our funds come from private donations, so $1,000 can go a long way towards covering programming and overhead. It provides the infrastructure which allows our programs to exist, supporting teacher-artist relationships which will ensure that schools will have the ability and resources to support musical education on their own, which is one of the primary goals of our programs.”
“Even $250 goes a long way,” Brenda added. “For our younger students, we use hands-on percussion instruments such as rhythm sticks, hand drums, tambourines, and the music instructor also needs to buy a bin to carry those instruments to the school and store them. $250 gets one bin for a classroom, so teachers could be doing musical activities with kids even when our staff aren’t around, allowing them to reinforce music’s enrichment of general education and kids’ participation in a positive learning environment, which means the world to these schools and their students.”
Check Out the Rock for Kids Auction!
If you’d like to help, Foundations of Music has a fan and exciting way to let you chip in. Every November, they hold a Rock for Kids Auction, which auctions off music-related items after a live music concert. In previous years, they’ve auctioned off a jumpsuit worn by Prince on-stage, a signed Jimi Hendrix set which included vinyl and song lyrics (which went for fifty-thousand dollars!), as well as instruments, albums, and set pieces signed by artists ranging from Eric Clapton to Pearl Jam.
If you’d like to donate or simply want to learn more, about Foundations of Music, please reach out today!