Give Music Life Newsletter: November 2014

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

The Foundation is proud to announce that we have donated over $1 million worth of instruments to music education and therapy programs nationwide. Since our founding in 2005, we have reached more than 200,000 children and adults through such programs and we are very excited about what the future will hold in our mission to Give Music Life. Of course, we could not have achieved these laudable goals without the support and generosity of manufacturers, such as Fender, Hohner, DW Drums, Córdoba Guitars, and Toca Percussion.

Charles Connor Profile: The First Beats of Rock ‘n Roll

Saying that you invented rock ‘n roll may sound unbelievable, but if you were the drummer for music legends Little Richard and James Brown, you’ll likely be taken seriously. That’s exactly what Charles Connor believes and he has the credentials, as well as the stories, to confidently make such a bold claim.

In 1953 when Charles Connor was a teenager he first met one of rock ‘n roll’s legendary performers. Back then as a starving musician in Nashville, Charles joined Little Richard’s band as their drummer. One day Little Richard took him to a train station in Macon, Georgia and it was here the sounds that lead to the first beats of rock ‘n roll were discovered.

Charles says he and his new bandleader went to the train station on a mission whereupon Little Richard asked him to listen carefully. Together they heard the deep rumblings of a locomotive engine as it chugged into the station. “What kind of beats are those?” asks Little Richard to which Charles responded, “Richard, those are eighth notes.” It was here that Charles developed the powerful drumbeats on Little Richard’s famous songs, such as “Jenny Jenny” and “Tutti Frutti”.

Music of the time didn’t have this sort of energy – the deep pounding of the bass drum – and Charles makes the argument where he and Little Richard created this rock ‘n roll sound from the beginning. “No drummer had played those kind of notes before because it was something kind of different,” he says. “And I know that beat was addictive because it sticks in your head.”

So what does a man who says he invented rock ‘n roll do? He writes a book, of course. Now Charles Connor probably isn’t the first person to make such a bold claim but having interesting stories can make it believable and for much better reading.

In the book “Keep A Knockin’ The Story Of A Legendary Drummer”, which is scheduled for release on March 2015 by Waldorf Press, Charles lets readers know what African-American musicians of the time in the Deep South had to go through during segregation. At the height of the Jim Crow era, Little Richard and band members had to appear effeminate – shiny curly hair and silky white pancake makeup with rouge to match – as a sort of camouflage.

“You dress like that because in the white honky-tonk clubs down south if you dress like macho guys, [it was perceived] you’ll be hitting on the white girls,” Charles says. “They would say, ‘Here comes Little Richard and the Sissies.’” We appeared not to be threatening and used this strategy to play the white clubs, he says.

Even though Charles had his share of fame and fortune, he remains humble. Inside “Keep A Knockin’ The Story Of A Legendary Drummer” he freely admits and reveals some of the most salacious experiences you would expect from a rock star; and tells tales of rock ‘n roll before it was.

“You know how it is [in] those days. You was the hottest, you lived a privileged life and you get all the girls and all the sex and alcohol stuff you want,” he says. “How would you feel playing behind one of the greatest entertainers on this planet? That’s a hell of a privilege.”

Our Sisters’ School

We’ve all read the stories about how important music education is in schools. Music improves just about everything – a person’s mood, test scores, attendance, math and a host of other benefits. The list goes on. With severe budget cuts and results based educational goals, however, it is rare to find schools committed to keeping the musical arts alive.

Our Sisters’ School and Mary Wayss, it’s visual and performing arts coordinator, take a different approach.

“We are committed to the visual and performing arts as part of the core curriculum at our school,” she says.

Located in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Our Sisters’ School is an independent tuition-free middle school for lower income girls. Founded in 2008, it serves 60 students from 5th grade through 8th and runs as an extended day model.

In addition to being tuition-free, another remarkable feature of the school is the time allocated to learning music.

“The students at Our Sisters’ School receive one hours’ worth of music instruction each week. They also have weekly homework and biweekly tests and quizzes to assess their progress,” Mary says.

The annual visual and performing arts festival is yet another part of the school’s support of musical performance.

“Every year the girls are able to perform for the community members, their families, and donors,” notes Wayss. “Because we rely heavy on private donations and grants as our funding stream I am responsible for funding music grants to grow our program.”

Those grants are often difficult to find. Our Sisters’ School recently qualified to receive a grant from the Foundation.

“There are only a few music grants available and we are fortunate to have received The Fender Music Foundation Grant,” Wayss says. “This grant enabled us to offer musical instrument instruction for our students that normally our students might not have been able to take advantage of.”

The Foundation donated much needed musical instruments and equipment for the program with the biggest donation item being 8 brand new guitars: 4 Fender Acoustics, 2 Squier Acoustics, and 2 Cordoba Fusion Orchestra acoustic-electrics. The donation also included 7 gig bags, 8 Maple Music Practice Benches, and 8 Acoustic guitar stands and straps.

“Our music department has been greatly impacted from the grant we received by allowing us to give guitar lessons to our entire 7th grade class of 19 students,” Wayss says.

The guitar class is part of a rich musical curriculum that provides.

“Besides the guitar class for the 7th grade, the 8th grade class has a wind ensemble, the 6th grade class is playing Orff and Keyboard, and our 5th grade class plays the recorder.”

Our Sisters’ school is committed to providing all of its students with a variety of musical instrument courses and the Foundation is glad to offer its support.

Arts & Services for Disabled: Love Before Learning

Helen Dolas studied to be a music therapist some 33 years ago in Northern California and today, as the CEO and founder of Arts & Services for Disabled, she is even more passionate about the arts as a tool to help those who are developmentally disabled get as much as they can out of life.

However, Helen firmly believes before starting the process of learning, individuals must feel comfortable with those who are helping them. Therapists at the Arts & Services for Disabled work to establish a good relationship with students. Their philosophy is simple: love before learning. The idea is to help individuals replace fear with comfort and fun so they may together reach their greatest potential.

“With our students we want them to feel safe, loved, respected and treated with dignity before anything else because that creates the therapeutic relationship, it creates a trust between two people,” she says. “From there they can accomplish a goal and then once they realize they can accomplish one goal, then that self-esteem and self-confidence just goes right through the roof.”

Helen says the individuals she and her staff work with need socialization with others or if left alone they would become withdrawn and possibly lose touch with society. To counter such dismal outcomes, creative arts therapies (music, dance, drama, and visual and literary arts) are used to assist individuals as a community service or who may be searching for career opportunities, and ultimately to provide lifelong learning.

And although students should feel relaxed in this learning environment, Helen knows that it is going to take more than a sense of comfort to help each person improve their lives. It was here her approach must differ from recreational arts programs in community centers. In the beginning, Helen knew she would need to develop something that would allow for results of their creative arts therapies program to be recorded and analyzed.

“I wanted to create something that was a unique program and a service delivery system for these individuals,” she says. “They were not afforded these opportunities through a specific methodology that’s research and evidence-based so that there were viable outcomes that could be tracked.”

It would seem that the mission of Arts & Services for Disabled would be a perfect match for the Fender Music Foundation as both organizations seek to use the music to help improve the lives of individuals and the community as a whole. And as luck would have it, about five years ago Helen ran into Freddy Fender’s granddaughter whom suggested she contact the Foundation for support of her program.

Arts & Services for Disabled qualified for a donation of various acoustic and electric guitars, amplifiers and accessories, and since has helped students improve the quality of their lives. We at the Foundation are proud to support this innovative and exciting program.

“All of the sudden you see that personality unlock and you see a smile and you see them creating a drumbeat or creating music on a instrument and that becomes a form of expression,” Helen says.

The Travels of a Learner’s Guitar

Aaron Reiss recently celebrated his Bar Mitzvah and as part of the community service requirement he has generously chosen to donate an Ibanez Learner’s Guitar – his very first guitar – to the Foundation . His passion for music and passage through life is symbolized by the donation. The Foundation and Aaron share in the belief that music is important in life. “Anyone who wants to play an instrument should be able to,” he says. With this gift, Aaron gives someone an opportunity to enjoy music and learn from it just as he has. Thanks Aaron and the Foundation wishes you the best in your future and encourages you to play on!


Troy Carson

As a student of CSU Channel Islands, Troy wanted to find an internship with a connection to the music industry, as he is passionate about music. He also was curious about how nonprofits operate so interning with the Fender Music Foundation was the perfect position for him.  During his time with the Foundation, Troy has helped keep our supporters informed of the work we do using social media and has provided input on various crowdfunding campaigns. Beyond the business side of what we do, Troy discovered the humanity behind our mission to Give Music Life. “I have also realized every child or person should have the right to have access to music and instruments no matter their economical status,” he says. “And that our company can truly have an impact in this field.”

  • Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, The Venetian, and PBS Soundstage are collaborating on a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the Foundation. Prizes include 2 rooms 1 night, autographed Fender guitar, Brian Wilson concert with sound check and run up.
  • On a sad note Matt Armstrong – a key employee – will be leaving us at the end of December to tour Europe; if you have social media and/or computer skills and an appreciation for musical instruments, please contact us.
  • We are working with noted surf music historian John Blair on a collaborative crowdfunding event to raise money for the Foundation and to produce the movie “Sound of the Surf”. Stay tuned!
  • Our Executive Director is dominating his fantasy football league by 136 points; the editor of this newsletter has a strong hold on second place in his league.