Foundations of Music envisions a society in which children of all means have access to music education and the opportunity to express themselves creatively through music.
The organization started in 1988 as Christmas Is for Kids, a campaign by Chicago’s music industry to help support city children living under challenging circumstances. The organization later changed its name to Rock for Kids as more of Chicago’s music scene became more involved in the effort.
In early 2014, Rock for Kids became Foundations of Music to further reflect the mission of empowering children through culturally relevant music education. The organization now serves over 7,000 students in more than 30 Chicago Public Schools. Classes include general music/choir, songwriting & production, honors choir, and jazz & blues workshops.
Skender Foundation became aware of Foundations of Music when a creatively talented member of its Builders’ Board suggested the board look further into the organization. Skender Foundation contacted them and communication developed into a relationship.
The Builders’ Board made Foundations of Music the focus of its annual Harvesting Hope event at the House of Blues in October 2015. The event attracted over 350 people and raised more than $30,000 for the organization.
“We empower Builders’ Board members to recommend organizations they believe fit our mission to inspire positive, sustainable change in Chicago,” said board member Brian Skender. “The organizations we partner with all have a passion that’s so contagious you can’t help but want to support them.
“We were drawn to Foundations of Music because of their love for empowering kids of lesser means through developing their musical gifts and abilities to express themselves. They are a very down-to-earth organization, and they’re always ready and eager to make their programs work.”
According to Foundations of Music Executive Director Steven Hartley, teaching a music class at a school one hour per week for a full year typically costs $5,000. Most schools being served don’t have budgetary room for music education, so they typically cannot pay the expense or can pay only a small portion of it.
Skender Foundation’s donation will fund six classes for a year and, with an average of 30 young people per class, impact approximately 180 lives. It also poises Foundations of Music to source additional funding to sustain the classes beyond the first year.
“Skender Foundation’s level of funding is significant for an organization our size,” Hartley said. “It gives us the security to make the best program choices while helping us achieve both current and future goals.”
Foundations of Music serves a student population that is almost 95% low income. Through a survey, 82% of classroom teachers reported an improvement in behavior, general demeanor and attitude among students as a result of participation in the music program. Pre- and post-testing has similarly revealed an increase in musical knowledge, vocabulary and understanding of musical concepts, providing cognitive skills that can be applied in other academic pursuits.
“We’re inspired that more kids now have access to music education,” Skender said. “If even one young person is able to rise up and succeed because of having been associated with the program, we will have achieved something truly special.”
“What I’ve learned from working with Skender Foundation is that they really believe in the causes they support and excel in raising awareness of them,” Hartley said. “Their character and values mirror ours. They deeply desire to help people develop themselves, make better decisions and choices, and, as a result, break the cycle of poverty.
“They are more than donors and sponsors. They are also friends with a personal interest in us. They want to keep in touch with us and offer their support beyond the funds that they shared. We feel connected to them. Theirs is simply a great model to follow.”
To learn more about Foundations of Music, visit www.foundationsofmusic.org.