Give Music Life Expanded Newsletter: May 2014

A monthly newsletter to keep you in key with the Fender Music Foundation.

Fender CEO rocks his swan song

FMIC CEO Larry Thomas with custom Stratocaster.

FMIC CEO Larry Thomas with custom Stratocaster.

Larry Thomas retired as CEO of the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC)   in May, 2014. Thomas was appointed to the FMIC Board of Directors in 2009 and later appointed CEO on Aug. 1, 2010.

“I am extremely proud of the success we have achieved in my time at Fender,” said Thomas. “We did a lot in just a few years and I leave feeling like our table is set for the company’s future direction. This has truly been a wonderful life-experience. FMIC is a wonderful company and Fender is a great brand, and I am very thankful to have played a part in the company’s history.”

Among his many notable accomplishments while leading Fender, Thomas is known for having brought an energetic leadership style designed to unleash creativity and innovation from all employees at every level of the company. He is also credited for bringing a strong spirit of Fender pride back to the factory floors, applying the focus of the company’s greatness to the men and woman who build the products and spending much of his time interacting with employees in the factories. In September 2011, he opened the doors to the 8,400 square foot Fender Visitor Center in Corona, Calif., adjacent to the Fender factory as a way to pay tribute to the factory and to provide the public more direct access to the important cultural legacy of the company.

Reading, rocking and arithmetic

ELPAA student enjoys playing a Córdoba acoustic during class.

East Los Angeles Performing Arts Academy (ELAPAA) isn’t like most schools within the district, says English teacher Ed O’Connell. He recalls when he first arrived at the Academy, students couldn’t freely pick up a guitar or a pair drumsticks during class.

How different things were than they are today.

“I wasn’t hired to be the Rock band club sponsor,” he says. “ELAPAA didn’t have one at the time, and for most of the first year, I didn’t think anyone could do what we do every day now: rock out at full volume in the classroom.”

Now live jam sessions take place during exams or when Ed is lecturing on how lyrics are relative to poetry and their grammatical structure. The transformation from a typical classroom to something which encompasses both music as an art form and an instructional device, has not only helped his students, but the teacher as well.

“I’ve learned more guitar in the last two years than the previous 20! I’ve been an English instructor for many years, but I had never worked with student bands before,” he says. “It’s been a great experience, and Fender Music Foundation helped make it happen by providing several great guitars”

Together MusicWorks and FMF make dreams come true

Shawnae and her father share in the joy of playing with a Fender Squier guitar.

As the Director of Music Therapy for the MusicWorks program, Lori O’Leary says that she sees improvement with her clients when everyone interacts with each other. Before the Foundation’s donation, there wasn’t enough guitars to go around and it would stifle progress. Today, she is very grateful with the instruments that her music therapy program has received. “MusicWorks [has] benefitted greatly from the donation of eight start up Fender Squier Strat guitar kits,” she says.

Lori and the therapists use the guitar kits during their 30 minute sessions within small groups as a way to help each client feel the excitement of strumming an electric guitar. She says you can see the joy on each individual’s faces as he or she learns how to play a chord. Granted, patience is a must as the clients each have their own challenges and therefore success, although slow at times, is very rewarding in the end.

MusicWorks and the clients of its therapy program have seen improvements with the help of the Foundation, Lori says.

“For the past few sessions, it has been like Christmas at our treatment center in the month of May, thanks to the generosity of the Fender Music Foundation,” she says.  “The real magic is seeing all of the kids in each group learning to play guitars together, interacting with one another and not having to wait for their turn to strum my guitar.”