How is Music & Youth different from other non-profits?
That is what SheGives members and guests set out to learn during their visit to the Music & Youth clubhouse at the West End House in Allston, MA on Wednesday.
The West End House Boys and Girls Club hosts one of Music & Youth’s 16 clubhouses, fifteen of which are in Massachusetts. At each clubhouse, kids 10-18 take lessons in music theory and instruments, drawing on a variety of in-house resources such as recording studios, practice rooms, computers, iPad stations, and musical instruments. SheGives members toured the clubhouse and listened to some of the teens in the program perform an unplugged cover of Paramore’s “Decode.”
After the tour, CEO Gary Eichhorn spoke about his inspiration for starting Music & Youth, which he founded with his wife, Joan, 14 years ago. Joan and Gary wanted to make a difference for inner-city kids that did not have high-quality after-school programs. The kids who did not have access to these programs, Gary said, were often those who needed them most, including the most economically disadvantaged children in the Boston area.
Gary and Joan did not want to create their own organization, as they were afraid that it would take away funds from other non-profits, so they came up with a unique model for helping current organizations. They contacted organizations like the Boys and Girls Club and discovered that music programs for preteens and teens were in high demand, but were difficult to implement due to lack of funding.
Gary and Joan decided to help organizations solve the problem of how to create and implement a music program, with the focus on making them high-quality and self-sustaining: “We’re really building a community. We’re not just building a clubhouse and then walking away,” Gary said. Music & Youth provides startup money for the clubhouses and then continues to invest to ensure that they have up-to-date equipment – such as a new iPad station at the West End House.
The model has been highly successful. West End House CEO Kristin Rhuda credits the music clubhouse with the growth in teen participation in her non-profit’s programs, calling it a “magnet” for young adults. “We really did have an explosion [in teen participation],” she said.
Kristin is grateful to Music & Youth for creating what is now a vital part of the organization: “It’s kind of hard for me to remember way back [before Music & Youth] because now it’s such a part of who we are and what we do, and such a part of how kids grow socially and emotionally here,” she said.