Good Deeds in a Naughty World

My heading is a paraphrase of Shakespeare, from his play The Merchant of Venice, Act Five, Scene 1, the same scene in which Lorenzo (one of the male leads) says that no one who dislikes music should be trusted.

Many MTNA members that I know perform a lot of good deeds—and are very trustworthy! They share their love of music in their communities on many levels, and serve gladly in a variety of volunteer positions to further the MTNA mission.

The fact remains that, despite our best efforts, music study is not available to many segments of the U.S. population. How many people study music each year in the U.S.? The official answer is: no one knows. But I’ll give you my answer: not enough.

Today I’d like to tell you about two established outreach programs, and one that is just beginning. They share a common goal: to bring music into the heart of the community, and bring music study to underserved populations.

Keys for the City“Keys for the City” is a project of Music for Everyone, a non-profit group in Lancaster, PA, a city that bills itself the “Street Piano Capital of the World”. 2014 was the fifth consecutive summer that pianos were placed all over Lancaster, to be played by whomever wanted to perform. There were 12 available pianos, each designed and painted by local artists.

“Whether people stop by to play a few notes or an entire piece, there [are] thousands of magical, musical moments…” says John Gerdy, president of Music for Everyone. Local teachers sometimes station themselves near the pianos to give brief lessons. But mainly, people just jam, and have a great time playing.

The “Keys for the City” coincides with five “Music Friday” events in Lancaster, in which 40 music acts perform in bars, restaurants, galleries, and in the streets of Lancaster.

Lancaster isn’t the only town reaching out with music. 2015 is a big year for my home MTNA branch, the Kansas City Music Teachers Association. It’s our 100th anniversary! To celebrate our 100 years of excellence, KCMTA has set a goal of placing 100 ‘artistically transformed’ pianos around the Kansas City area during the summer of 2015. It’s part of a program called “Pianos on Parade”.

Local artists and kids will paint the pianos in May. Some will be stationed in high-traffic areas, others will pop-up at local fairs, festivals and sporting events. “Pianos on Parade” is a program of Keys 4/4 Kids, a non-profit organization that accepts donated pianos and uses the profits to fund charitable programs.

The last program that I would like to tell you about is close to my own heart, because it originates in the MTNA Student Chapter of the school where where I teach, the University of Kansas. This is a wonderful group of music students who are taking the initiative to do something really special.

They (with my help, since I am faculty advisor) have identified a group of students in a small Kansas town who have never had the opportunity to study any musical instrument. We are going to offer lessons to them, using the teaching skills of our KU students and the latest technology.

We’re busy checking, organizing and finalizing, so I better say no more right now. I couldn’t be more proud of this group of exceptional young musicians and I’m looking forward to sharing more information with you.

Is your local MTNA branch reaching out to the community in exciting ways? If so, I would love to hear about it! Leave me a comment, or send me an email.

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