Youth Development

Music for Life

Springfield, VA   |  www.musicforlife.org

Mission

We use the power of music education to support at-risk youth and help them overcome barriers to becoming self-sufficient adults. Access to opportunities needed to reach their full potential should not depend on the circumstances into which they are born.

Ruling year info

2010

President

Mr Skip Chaples

Main address

PO Box 1141

Springfield, VA 22151 USA

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EIN

27-2981666

Cause area (NTEE code) info

Youth Development Programs (O50)

Other Art, Culture, Humanities Organizations/Services N.E.C. (A99)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The problem is access to opportunities for low income youth; some opportunities are out of reach due to lack of money; others because of neighborhood in which they live. Low income youth need inclusion at school and in society in order to develop the social skills, confidence and disciplines they need to become successful. It's difficult to believe in success when you can't participate with peers who live in successful families. School programs best suited to foster such inclusion - music, arts, sports - are not receiving sufficient resources to allow all interested to participate. Fees are being instituted to fill the resource gap; fees that disproportionately impact low income youth. Our programs ensure these low income youth have access to music education opportunities both in their neighborhood and school.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

After School Guitar Program

Our After School Guitar Program teaches youth about the benefits of a music education; teaches them about music related career opportunities; and provides them the opportunity to learn how to play guitar. Our program is free to all eligible students. By integrating our program with the programs of other organizations serving the same demographic we add both capacity and diversity to the opportunities available to these youth. Through partnerships with other organizations we ensure that our programs do not complete with one another and that the net result is to attract, retain and better serve more youth in need of support and guidance. At each service location we operate Beginner and Intermediate classes throughout the school year; summer sessions are held when practical. We accept up to 10 students per class session. Class sessions are one 1 hour lesson per week with practice sessions on the days we are not there. Students can stay with our program as long as they want. We provide a guitar on loan at the start of the program; each student who passes the Beginner’s class is awarded that guitar to keep. Intermediate students continue to learn more as well as assist in teaching new students entering the program. Under this program we also support lessons for veterans and their families as well as provide ukuleles and accessories to music therapists working with youth with disabilities and music teachers in Title I Elementary Schools.

Population(s) Served
Adolescents (13-19 years)
Adults
Budget
$28,720

Music for Life has formed a partnership with four other local nonprofits to provide instruction in instruments other than guitar; they are Hungry for Music, Levine Music, MusicLink Foundation and Mason Community Arts Academy. We provide low income youth their instrument and subsidize their school fees so that they can fully participate in their middle or high school's band or orchestra program. We also provide them weekly private lessons so they can compete with their peers in wealthier families that can afford private lessons for their children

Population(s) Served
Adolescents (13-19 years)
General/Unspecified
Budget
$75,680

Music for Life has partnered with the STEM Guitar Project to facilitate it's implementation into the Career & Technical Education Curriculum of area schools. Under this program students are taught the science, engineering and math principles associated with the design and operation of a guitar; build their own instrument; learn practical technical skills; and learn about music related career opportunities. It's an applied learning program that prepares them for a career path either through college an directly into the skilled trades.

Population(s) Served
Adolescents (13-19 years)
Budget
$64,900

Where we work

Affiliations & memberships

United Way Member Agency 2008

Center for Nonprofit Management Excellence Network 2010

Combined Federal Campaign 2008

NAMM (National Association of Music Merchandisers) 2010

GAMA (Guitar & Accessories Marketing Associaition) 2018

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of youth who demonstrate motivation to learn

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adolescents (13-19 years),At-risk youth,Economically disadvantaged, low-income, and poor people

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

61% of our students do better in school; 77% develop a more positive attitude toward education. 68% of our students learn to play an instrument well.

Number of youth who demonstrate that they have developed social skills (e.g., interpersonal communication, conflict resolution)

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adolescents (13-19 years),At-risk youth,Economically disadvantaged, low-income, and poor people

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

93% of our students show improvement in their confidence, discipline and social skills in 2018.

Number of youth who demonstrate that they have developed a strong sense of self

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adolescents (13-19 years),At-risk youth,Economically disadvantaged, low-income, and poor people

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

93% of our students show improvement in their understanding of what it takes to become self-sufficient and successful in our society in 2018.

Number of youth who demonstrate that they have developed knowledge about occupations

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adolescents (13-19 years),At-risk youth,Economically disadvantaged, low-income, and poor people

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

93% of our students have increased understanding of career possibilities and the path one must follow to pursue them in 2018.

Charting impact

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

Music for Life's purpose is to help those burdened with adverse circumstances – poverty, dysfunctional families or communities – become successful. We provide those skills and guidance necessary for them to overcome their circumstances and become contributing, self-sufficient adults. We operate, in their communities and schools, music programs that stimulates their educational interests and builds their confidence so they can overcome the barriers and deal with the stresses inherent to their situation. <br/><br/>Studies show that bringing programs into neighborhoods is the most effective way to reach those who are not engaged, improve their attitude and reduce crime and gang activity. Research also shows a strong correlation between music education and a person's success in life. Those involved in a quality music program tend to do better in school; score higher on standardized tests; be less inclined to engage in risky behavior; and be more inclined to take advantage of positive opportunities made available to them. In addition to its educational value, learning music is also a release for stressful emotions that can't otherwise be expressed. Music is particularly effective in today's diverse society because it appeals to people of any age, gender, race, religion or cultural background; there are no stereotypes associated with who can learn to play.<br/><br/>While music programs have a proven, positive effect on a person's well-being and success, financial pressures on both Government and families are making them less accessible and/or affordable to an increasing number of people. Music for Life fills this void by providing those being excluded a free, quality music program in their community. We can increase our impact by increasing our capacity, expanding our program offerings and widening the demographic served.

Music for Life has an effective strategy for achieving our goals. We've used it to grow from our beginning in 2006 with 24 students at three locations in Northern Virginia to serving over 800 students annually at 38 locations in the metropolitan DC area. <br/><br/>The basis of our strategy is collaborations and partnerships in the nonprofit, private and public sectors. Understanding the community's needs and integrating ourselves with those serving it ensures we avoid duplication of effort, make effective use of existing resources and focus our attention where it will have the greatest impact.<br/><br/>We build public awareness of the issue we address and solution we offer by annually increasing the number of events and speaking engagements in which we participate. We are always looking for people who can extend the breadth and depth of the experience, expertise and contacts available to us.<br/><br/>We annually increase our funding through good stewardship of current supporters as well as identifying and developing new revenue sources. <br/><br/>We ensure program quality by evolving our relationships with professional organizations serving the music industry. These relationships provide us access to the latest industry trends and technologies, donations of and preferred pricing for equipment and insight into best practices for teaching music. <br/><br/>We ensure service relevancy by engaging local Governments and nonprofit support organizations in the communities where we operate. Through collaboration with professional music educators and experienced music therapists we continue refining our curriculum so that our program fulfills both the educational and social needs of our clients in an enjoyable and culturally competent manner.

We value the integrity and transparency of our organization. Our finances are subject to an annual independent audit; our Annual Report, Form 990 and audit report are posted on our website and Guidestar; and we maintain a Guidestar Platnium rating. We coordinate with local and state agencies responsible for providing social services in the areas we serve to ensure our program is in compliance with applicable regulations and best serving the current need.<br/><br/>Music for Life is governed by three officers and a board of directors. We utilized a pool of 100 volunteer music teachers to teach our classes. We also have a 35 member advisory group to draw upon for specific expertise and tasking when needed. It includes business professionals with expertise in finance, web development, social media, public relations, communications and graphics; social workers; and clients as well as professional guitarists, percussionists, music educators and music therapists. It reflects the communities we serve, skills we provide and clients we serve as well as the professional needs of the program and organization.<br/><br/>We have a diversified funding base that includes individual donors; corporate sponsors like Gibson, Fender, Wittner, D'Addario and Aurora Strings; membership in workplace campaigns like United Way, CFC and World Bank; grants through local organizations like Rotary, Kiwanis and local Community Funds; and County grants. We also raise funds and awareness through our participation in area music festivals. We maintain a two year operating reserve as a hedge against economic turn-downs. Fundraising in excess of what is required for operations and maintaining our reserves is used for growth. We continue to grow each year.<br/><br/>Our relationship with the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) and Guitar & Accessories Marketing Association (GAMA) provides us direct access to the businesses that manufacture and sell music products. Through these connections we have access to the latest industry trends and technologies and are able to solicit equipment donations and negotiate preferred pricing for the equipment we use. <br/><br/>Our relationship with the National Association for Music Educators (NAfME) provides us training and expertise on current best practices in music education; resources essential to curriculum development and refinement. It also provides us visibility to their membership of professional music educators thus allowing us to solicit their support as volunteers or volunteer recruiters for our program. <br/><br/>Our relationship with the Songwriters Association of Washington (SAW), the Washington Area Music Association (WAMA) and BIAS Recording Studio provides us access to the vast network of professional and amateur musicians residing in the metropolitan DC area. We use this access to solicit volunteers as well as musicians to perform on our behalf at benefits.

Our program is designed to benefit youth independent of how far they progress in learning to play an instrument. As with any program, the longer one participates the greater the benefit. For those that stay with us for a short time, exposing them to something new increases both their knowledge and awareness. It provides a positive experience presented by good role models; it opens their mind and gives them the incentive/confidence to seek out other new things that they thought were not within their reach. Those who stay with our program longer benefit not only from the additional knowledge but also from the discipline they learn and the new friendships they develop - factors which have a positive influence on their attitude and behavior.<br/><br/>Music for Life has a formal Performance Measurement Plan that was developed for us by faculty at the GMU School of Nonprofit Management and Innovation Networks Inc. in 2008. The plan details a systematic approach for collecting and analyzing both quantitative and qualitative data. Data collected is analyzed annually and adjustments to curriculum and/or locations are made as necessary to ensure we deliver a quality program in the communities of greatest need. <br/><br/>Our short-term outcomes are increased awareness of the skills and discipline required to learn how to play an instrument; increased demonstration of basic guitar skills; increased awareness of music industry career opportunities; increased confidence; and students experience positive relationship/role-modeling with adults and older youth. Our long-term outcomes include increased academic achievement; increased self-esteem; increased understanding of potential career opportunities; and increased understanding and respect of individuals from different ethnic/social/racial backgrounds.<br/><br/>To date we have recorded the following changes in our students.<br/><br/>• 62% pass the beginner's class within one year;<br/>• 36% continue with intermediate instruction and teaching new students; <br/>• 87% show improved social interaction across gender and racial lines;<br/>• 73% demonstrate improved confidence and interest in learning; and<br/>• 54% are performing better in school (as reported by parents and school teachers).<br/><br/>These percentages have increased modestly each year; our goal is to continue year to year improvement in these percentages as well as to increase the number of students served.

In our first thirteen years we have refined our program curriculum to the point where it consistently achieves the desired results and is widely recognized as a quality music education program. We did this by listening to what our students, their parents and our teachers had to say about what we were doing and how well it was working. We've learned how to recruit and train our teachers as well as how to present our program to our students so that they find it fun and stimulating. The result has been an annual increase in both the length of time students stay with our program and the level of guitar playing expertise they achieve. We've learned how to set up and operate successful partnerships with both government entities and other nonprofits. In each case we can ensure that the interests and needs of both organizations are met without compromising the integrity or effectiveness of our music program. We've developed excellent relationships with manufacturers in the music industry and negotiated preferred equipment purchasing agreements. As a result we've been able to improve the quality of the equipment provided to our students while at the same time lowering the equipment cost per student. We developed a GAAP compliant financial system with annual independent audits; our financials are posted on our website to ensure complete transparency with respect to the funds entrusted to us. We've started the transition from being an all-volunteer organization to one that has some paid staff. The has relieved the administrative burden that accompanies our growth. Employing paid staff requires a significant increase in our fundraising. We've firmly established our program value and organizational effectiveness and we believe we are meeting that challenge. We are successfully approaching new revenue sources capable of providing the funds needed.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is the organization collecting feedback?

    We regularly collect feedback through: paper surveys, suggestion box/email.

  • How is the organization using feedback?

    We use feedback to: to identify and remedy poor client service experiences, to identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, to make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, to inform the development of new programs/projects, to identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, to strengthen relationships with the people we serve.

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    We share feedback with: the people we serve, our staff, our board, our funders, our community partners.

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to: the people we serve tell us they find data collection burdensome, it is difficult to find the ongoing funding to support feedback collection, staff find it hard to prioritize feedback collection and review due to lack of time, it is difficult to identify actionable feedback.

  • What significant change resulted from feedback

    We've made two recent changes based on client and community feedback. The first was in our STEAM Guitar Program. Since 2016 it's been based on an electric guitar and only operated in high schools. We received feedback that it should be extended to include middle school youth. In response, in 2019 we developed a version of the program based on a cigar box guitar for younger students. The second was in our After-School Guitar Program. In 2018 we began providing music therapists working with youth with disabilities ukuleles and accessories for their music programs. We received feedback that music teachers in Title I Elementary Schools had a similar need so in 2019 we began providing ukuleles and accessories to their music programs as well.

Financials

Music for Life
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Music for Life

Board of directors
as of 4/28/2020
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Mr Skip Chaples

No Affiliation

Term: 2017 - 2018


Board co-chair

Mr Rick Weinberg

Capital Asset Management group

Term: 2017 - 2018

Skip Chaples

No Affiliation

Betsy Stone

Retired Finance Officer, BEA Systems

Rick Weinberg

Capital Asset Management Group

James Basara

Guitar Affair

Glen McCarthy

Adjunct Professor GMU School of Music

Cheri Brown

Freddie Mac

Diane Ditzler

U.S. Pharmacopeia

Frank Darling

Retired Weyerhaeuser Executive

Vince Blessing

Retired IRS Analyst

Curtis Schehr

DCS Corp

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Keywords

youth, music, after-school, after school, afterschool, at-risk, underprivileged