Founder of The Fender Music Foundation, former CEO of Guitar Center, Inc., and current CEO of Fender Musical Instruments Corporation –
For almost 30 years, I worked to help build and grow the largest musical instrument retailer in the world. But during that time, in addition to confronting the everyday challenges of growing a business, I became more and more sensitized to the fact that the opportunity for newer generation kids to experience the joys and power of music was diminishing. Like every other musician, a central part of my life has been dependent upon music. But what if the music stopped?
Talk to anyone who plays an instrument or sings, and you will hear of the resounding power of music; a true gift whose benefits have only recently been documented. Music is the first recognition for an infant even before the sound of speaking. We now know the connection between studies of music at an early age and higher aptitudes for math and science in young students. Research has also shown that kids who study music score higher on SATs than those who dont study music. Now the studies are in regarding the importance of music in development of creativity and problem solving, and team building that is learned as a result of playing music together. Finally, recent studies are showing the power of music participation for the elderly, and the documented wellness value inherent in making music.
But what if the music stops? Did you know that today only about 25% of 8th grade kids nationwide have access to music in our schools? Or, that programs in California music and arts education have dropped almost 50% in the last 4 years? Closer to home, a 2001 study revealed that most of the 82 public school districts in Los Angeles County dedicated less than 1% of their total budget to arts education. As one professor, John Feierabend, stated recently, “We’ve gone from a country of music makers to music consumers.” He continued with, “Children today risk losing touch with their musicality.”
Knowing how important music is to my life, I felt compelled to join others to reverse this trend. For that reason, we created the Foundation, with a clear mission to provide opportunities for kids and adults alike to experience the joys of creating music. For the last year, we have worked hard building bridges with artists, vendors, advocates and like-minded charities. I have invested myself at the state and national level. Our goal is to leverage our assets and resources to support other charities and advocacies with successful models that are doing the work.
But now we need your help! Help us to reverse the trend in public schools. Help us as we assist others to provide a music opportunity to kids in high-risk communities. Help us support music schools that are making available low-cost lessons in our communities. Help us to bring music and wellness to the senior community.
I was once told that the “journey of a thousand miles is a matter of putting one foot ahead of the other.” Will you take a step with me? Will you help me make a difference? If music is a part of your life, will you help us give the gift that can last a lifetime? Please join us.
Larry E. Thomas
Founder, The Fender Music Foundation