Music and Youth Initiative is bringing musical programs to underserved Massachusetts-based populations of children ages 10-18 through Music Clubhouse. Co-founded in 2004 by husband and wife team Gary and Joan Eichhorn, the program was a response to the onslaught of public schools removing arts and music programs from their curriculum.
The Eichhorns saw an opportunity gap between the students living in inner-city neighborhoods and those from more affluent areas. David Bickel, Associate Executive Director for the Music & Youth Initiative explains to Parentology how the Eichhorns moved to close that gap.
Not All Families Can Afford Private Lessons
When school music cuts first began, parents in affluent school districts compensated by paying for private lessons. “Inner-city neighborhoods, though, didn’t have the ability to make meaningful music opportunities happen,” Bickle says.
The Eichhorns noted this disparity and took action. The couple reached out to youth organizations, like the Boys and Girls Club, YMCA and similar grassroots groups to see how they could add music programs to these existing organizations.
A Program Within a Program
The organizations approached by the Eichhorns were responsive. For many, music was the number one program being requested by teens in programs with facilities focused on athletics or tutoring services. In addition to not having existing space for music programs, financial issues limited purchasing equipment and hiring trained professionals.
Diving in, the Eichhorns designed music spaces, procured equipment, created programs, trained instructors and provided ongoing professional development workshops. Bickle says, “They worked to build a community that supported these types of organizations to ensure they had the funding needed.”
Music & Youth Continues To Grow
Bickle joined the organization in 2006 as a music instructor in one of the pilot programs. Since then he’s watched the program grow and succeed in bringing musical education to neighborhoods where musical programs were cut from school curriculums.
Part of the initiative’s success has been due to the Eichhorn’s funding plan and program provider education approach. “Music and Youth provides a five-year funding window of partial support, committing to one-third of the budget, while the [foundational] programs provide the other two-thirds,” Bickle says. “The funding window gives them time to find a donor base and grants, making it sustainable and not just a flash in the pan.”
Bickle adds the long window of funding gives the kids in the program a chance to build their skills and showcase what they’ve learned. Additionally, “It helps kids build social and emotional skills that last a lifetime — leadership, communication, confidence, self-esteem skills.”
Teaching Kids What They Want to Learn
The Music and Youth Initiative continues to expand. Since 2004, they’ve moved beyond guitar and piano lessons, now providing recording studio equipment. Since technology is more affordable and accessible, Bickle says this makes it easier to roll out new initiatives with iPads and software, reaching more communities than ever before.
Music and Youth Initiative is undergoing a three- to five-year expansion period during which they hope to increase their technology to include more recording studios where kids can write, produce and sell their own music. The program, called Music Clubhouse, is currently available in Georgia, Massachusetts and Texas.
To find out if there’s a Music Clubhouse near you, check their site for location listings.
Music Clubhouse — Sources
David Bickel, Associate Executive Director for the Music & Youth Initiative