(Nov. 15, 2017) Catherine Read talks with Skip Chaples, President of Music for Life. This community based non-profit provides music education and mentoring programs for low-income youth primarily in middle and high school. Originally founded in 2006 by the parents of a music student who was tragically shot and killed, the name of the organization was changed in 2013 to Music for Life. It is a largely all volunteer organization, with the first full time employee hired in 2016.
Skip Chaples became involved with the original organization as the former Scout Master of the Eagle Scout whose life was cut short. It has grown and expanded in the decade since it was launched and they now provide three types of programs:
After School Guitar Program
Band & Orchestra Program
The STEM Guitar Project
The After School Guitar Program is provided on-site at schools as well as in low income housing communities and in foster care group homes. They also have programs to serve adults with disabilities and they provide programs for people of all ages with intellectual disabilities. Volunteer instructors set the lessons and Music for Life provides the instruments which the students get to keep. High school students also serve as volunteer instructors for younger musicians as a way to fulfill their community service hours doing something they enjoy. This year Music for Life is working in collaboration with the Hylton Performing Arts Center on a guitar program for veterans, service members and their family members
The Band & Orchestra program helps with fees for instruments and provides after school instrument instruction for a wide variety of instruments – trumpet, oboe, flute, clarinet, etc. Some of these volunteers are college music majors as well as volunteers from local bands and orchestras. Currently they have about 30 band students in 3 middle schools and one high school in Fairfax County. Overall, they serve over 800 students a year in all three programs.
The STEM Guitar Project was launched for the first time at Mount Vernon High School in 2016-17. The curriculum was developed by faculty at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, under a grant from the National Science Foundation. The program includes a one week training for teachers who conduct the class. The lessons incorporate the math and physics around the design and operation of an electric guitar. There is a lab where students actually construct their entire guitar – from woodworking to create the body and neck, to creating the frets, installing the electronics and doing their own soldering, painting and stringing. The inaugural class included 28 students of which 3 were women. It was empowering for them to see what they were capable of creating with their own two hands, and they each got to keep their guitar.
Music for Life works local music festivals to find donors and volunteers. Their booth includes a raffle for a guitar, which is an effective way to connect with local musicians. They are a member of the Songwriters Association of Washington (SAW) and the Washington Area Music Association (WAMA) and are supported financially by local, national and international music companies.