Grassroots Youth Empowerment

Music Interventions Empower Youth

The creative process of music study revolves around daily evaluation, discipline, risk-taking, planning short and long term goals, and achieving these goals in front of one’s peers and family members. Many of these initial elements are also essential when fostering youth empowerment and transforming conflict.

For more information about what factors create a successful arts intervention youth program, please read The Arts and Prosocial Impact Study: Program Characteristics and Prosocial Effects prepared by the nonprofit institution RAND[1] for the City of Los Angles Cultural Affairs Department.

The following organizations are instilling music intervention youth empowerment in their communities and “sister” communities glocally.

Anthropos Arts

Anthropos Arts is an Austin-based nonprofit organization, 501(c)3, working primarily in the East Austin community to bring top professional musicians into Title I, low-income middle and high schools to offer free music lessons, workshops, master classes, and performance opportunities to economically disadvantaged youth.


Believe in Music

Believe in Music, founded by Kenny Liner of The Bridge, is a new Living Classrooms program operating at our POWER House facility in the Eastside Children’s Target Investment Zone. The program aims to uplift underprivileged Baltimore City students academically, culturally, and spiritually, while promoting self-expression and community awareness through music education. Through the program, students will foster a deep connection with music in their own lives, and gain the tools to be able express their culture, struggles, and triumphs through music. It is our hope that students will come away from the program seeing music as a way to uplift themselves as well as their community.


Cambodian Living Arts

The mission of Cambodian Living Arts is to facilitate the transformation of Cambodia through the arts.

We collaborate to create an environment where Cambodian arts empower and transform individuals and communities.

We do this by building the capacity of artists and the arts community, by promoting awareness of the arts, and by advocating for the arts with cultural policymakers and major institutions.


The Center for Music National Service

The Center for Music National Service (MNS) is a nonprofit organization that supports music as a strategy for public good. Through direct programs and advocacy, MNS promotes music as an intervention to improve student success, soothe the sick, and strengthen communities of all kinds.


The Children’s Music Foundation

The Children’s Music Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation founded in Texas with chapters in Houston and Austin. Our mission is ‘Enriching the lives of children and building communities with music, music instruction and scholarship’. We fulfill our mission by giving musical instruments and music lessons to children who wouldn’t otherwise have access. All we ask of participants is that they ‘Play it forward!’ by teaching someone else what we’ve taught them so the music moves from person to person, community to community.

We work with children in shelters and hospitals, and alongside other community organizations that serve children in need.


Ear Candy Charity

Our Mission is to Provide Youth Access to Music Education. Arizona is currently 49th out of 50 states in per person educational funding and arts programs are the first to get cut. We fulfill our mission through Instrument Drives, Backstage Class field trips, and Community Partnerships.


El Sistema

Led by organist, economist, and politician José Antonio Abreu, FESNOJIV (the State Foundation for the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras), more commonly known as “El Sistema,” teaches music to 300,000 of Venezuela’s poorest children. It is a tested model of how a music program can create both great musicians and dramatically change the life trajectory of hundreds of thousands of a nation’s neediest kids.

Below is a list of El Sistema- inspired organizations in the U.S., that can also be found on this visual representation.

Below is a list of El Sistema-inspired programs outside of the U.S.


The Ethiopian String Center

The Ethiopian String Center program aims to uncover the talents in the community, promote personal empowerment and cultural exchange through musical arts, specifically string playing. The ESC provides a place and a program in which people of all walks of life can learn, share, grow, and perform.


The HEARTbeats Foundation

The HEARTbeats Foundation strives to help children in need harness the power of music to better cope with, and recover from, the extreme challenges of poverty and conflict.

The foundation is a 501(c)(3) charity founded in June 2010 by renowned cellist Lynn Harrell and his wife, violinist Helen Nightengale. Based in Los Angeles, the HEARTbeats Foundation strives to help children in need harness the power of music to better cope with, and recover from, the extreme challenges of poverty and conflict, in hope of creating a more peaceful, sustainable world for generations to come.


Jazz & Democracy Project

The Jazz & Democracy Project® (J&D) uses jazz as a metaphor to cultivate a profound understanding of American democracy. J&D brings American democracy to life, enriches the study of U.S. History in elementary, middle, and high school, and inspires youth to become active, positive contributors to their community.


Jazz House Kids (as of 11/2/12, the website of this non-profit is invalid)

Jazz House Kids is a community-based arts organization with a mission to provide year-round musical, educational, and cultural programs to students in grades K-12, teachers, adults, and families from diverse backgrounds. Internationally renowned jazz performers teach alongside our professional staff, offering students a wide range of creative programming that develops musical potential, enhances leadership skills, and strengthens academic performance.The “Jazz House” provides the framework for students to cultivate the talent, discipline, skills and principles they need to play, sing, and appreciate America’s original musical art form. Through music, mentoring and education, Jazz House Kids cultivates tomorrow’s global citizens so they may build vibrant communities where they live.
The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus is a non-profit 501(c)(3) state-of-the-art mobile audio and HD video recording and production facility. In its fifteenth year, with the very newest technology and gear, the Bus continues to be dedicated to providing young people with tours of the studios and participation in free songwriting and multimedia production workshops. With the assistance of three on-board engineers, students learn how to write, perform, record, and produce original songs, produce and shoot music videos and documentaries and complete a broadcast quality music video – all in one day!
Manhattan New Music Project(MNMP) empowers youth in underserved communities, using the performing arts to develop essential life skills and achieve academic success. We build partnerships among artists, students, teachers and parents that focus on the creation and performance of new works.
Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts (MECA) is a community-based nonprofit organization committed to the healthy development of underserved youth and adults through arts and cultural programming, academic excellence, support services and community building.

 MECA’s vision is to be a nationally-recognized multicultural community center known for its:

  • High-quality instruction, performance and demonstration of the performing, visual and cultural arts
  • Excellent academic and social support services for youth and their families
  • Leadership in building partnerships that celebrate cultural diversity
  • Special events and celebrations that reflect our diverse communities


Midori & Friends

Founded in 1992 by the world-renowned violinist, Midori, and a committed board of directors, Midori & Friends has enhanced the lives of almost 200,000 under-served New York City children and their families through providing high-quality music education programs and initiatives. We serve over 15,000 students annually in 40 public schools and community agency sites within New York City’s most disadvantaged communities. Focusing on children with little or no access to the arts, our programs are offered at no cost to students and available to all children regardless of their musical ability, education, or economic background. In many cases, our music programs provide the first experiences in which children become engaged in school, realize a sense of accomplishment, and attain self-confidence.

Music Crossroads International

Music Crossroads International (MCI) is a unique youth empowerment through music program, providing young people aged between 15 and 25 in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia, with musical opportunities and exposure, in addition to training in music and life skills.

The program has grown to reach some 5,000 musicians and a combined audience of over 300,000 people per year spread across the five countries. This has been achieved through over 40 annual festivals, performance training and international band tours, as well as workshops focused on music rights awareness, social interaction, gender issues and HIV/AIDS prevention, organized by the 5 national Music Crossroads NGO’s.


Music Empowers Foundation

Music Empowers Foundation was established as a private foundation for the purpose of providing funding to nonprofit organizations that offer engaging and innovative music instruction to children in communities where music education either does not exist or is underdeveloped. Music Empowers Foundation is founded on the knowledge that music ignites children’s creativity, fosters a sense of accomplishment, and empowers them to achieve and succeed in all aspects of their lives.


Music Unites, a 501(c)3 non-profit, is dedicated to bringing music education to underprivileged children in underfunded inner city school systems.

Our goal is to connect people through the universality of music by providing communities with opportunities for a rich musical experience. This is achieved  through education programs and by offering established and emerging musicians performance opportunities in a variety of venues and locations, including schools, where they act as mentors to the students.


Music & Youth Initiative

Music & Youth Initiative™ develops and funds after-school music education and enrichment programs. Our Music Clubhouse and Studio Clubhouse Programs give young people in underserved urban communities the opportunity to build self-confidence and interpersonal skills while fostering an appreciation of music.


Nameless Sound

Nameless Sound was established in 2011 to present the best of international contemporary music and to support the exploration of new methods of arts education. Nameless Sound presents concerts by premiere artists in the world of creative music. In addition, Nameless Sound artists work directly with students from Houston’s public schools, community centers, and homeless shelters. Nameless Sound’s educational work helps to nurture a new generation of artists and inspire tomorrow’s creative thinkers.


Opus 118 Harlem School of Music

Opus 118 Harlem School of Music provides quality music instruction and teacher development in an environment that nurtures excellence and creativity. Learning a musical instrument is a unique way of exposing children to beauty. Music education is a prime tool to awaken creativity and to teach concentration and focus. Focused study of a musical instrument affects a student’s academic performance in other subject areas in a positive way. Structured musical activities for students during the non-school hours are a means of preventing violence and drug abuse. Music is an instrument of peace, allowing students an emotional release in a time of social conflict and stress while teaching tolerance in a diverse community. In preparing young minds for a complex world, music education serves not only as a means to teach collaboration and cooperation, but also as a guide in solving complex problems. Music education creates and expands horizons for children who would otherwise lack the opportunity to experience the benefits that are derived from such an education.


Playing for Change Foundation

The Playing For Change Foundation is dedicated to creating positive social change through music education. We are driven by the belief that peace and change are possible through the universal language of music. By providing children a safe place to learn, flourish and express themselves, PFCF helps provide a creative alternative to the struggles many of these children face daily.

Music’s global impacts are explored via interaction with other schools, students, teachers and musical traditions. Our music schools are designed to benefit the students and the communities where they live. Each school belongs to its local community. Materials and labor for the buildings are locally sourced and supplied. When possible, instruments are made by and purchased from local artisans, classes are taught by local teachers, and the schools are owned and administered by local community members. The community is invested in the success of its school.


Peace Mix

In 2012 Peace Mix called for all street poets, songwriters, vocal divas and virtuosos to come together and help us spread a message of harmony using the most powerful universal language – music!

Over summer the Peace Mix Mic Relay tour journeyed across the entire UK to uncover the best Big Lottery Fund (BIG) and other publicly funded music studios available to young people – positive spaces where budding talent can create and record their own tunes.


Roots of American Music

Roots of American Music provides arts-integrated programs to youth and diverse communities, using traditional music, in order to enhance educational outcomes and enrich people’s lives.

Roots of American Music, founded in 1999, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization located just east of Cleveland in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.  Many Cleveland suburbs suffer the same social and economic ills as Cleveland including a lack of accessible arts programming.  We recognize our communities are in needs of culture-enhancing and uplifting educational programming to strengthen individual skills through the arts.  Therefore, we provide community-based programming that depends on direct community input about service gaps and underserved individuals in diverse and low income neighborhoods.  All programs are tailored to site-specific needs so that participants benefit musically, educationally, and individually through life skills development (teambuilding, leadership, self-determination).


The Roots of Music

The Roots of Music Program fills a void in music education programs in New Orleans educational institutions.

Where marching bands were always an integral part of the New Orleans middle schools, this has changed drastically after Katrina and many schools don’t offer music programs anymore.Today the program serves over 100 students, making up a full marching band that is successfully parading the city since Mardi Gras 2009.

The program provides music education in history, theory, instrumental instruction and ensemble performance. Furthermore, academic tutoring is offered to ensure the students maintain at least a 2.5 GPA in school.


Silwan Ta’azef Music School

Since October 2007, weekly music lessons are given by professional musicians to the children of Silwan. The music school offers an introductory course to music for children ages 4-12, and group instrumental lessons to children and teenagers.

The main concept behind the music school is to offer an outlet for creativity and emotions through the playing of music, and to support the personal and musical development of every child. All classes in the music school are held in groups, and much emphasis is given to social interaction and personal social development.


VH1 Save the Music

The VH1 Save The Music Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring instrumental music education in America’s public schools, and raising awareness about the importance of music as part of each child’s complete education. Since its inception in 1997, the VH1 Save The Music Foundation has provided $48 million in new musical instruments to 1,800 public schools in more than 100 cities around the country, impacting the lives of over 1.8 million children.



Youth Empowerment through Arts and Humanities, Inc. (YEAH!) is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit charitable youth arts organization in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. YEAH! is a youth arts venue located at a Central Magnet School, in Murfreesboro. YEAH!’s mission in all its programming is to provide a safe learning environment for teens that will empower them not only in the arts but in life skills, volunteerism, and community service.

YEAH! offers all ages concerts, classes in performing arts, visual arts and humanities, homework help, and music camps during the summer. Our flagship summer camps are the Southern Girls Rock and Roll Camp (SGRRC) held at MTSU in Murfreesboro, the Tennessee Teens Rock and Roll Camp (TNTRC)held in Nashville, Tennessee, and the New York City Rock Camp (NYCRC) held in Brooklyn, NY. These are summer day camps for girls ages 10-17 (SGRRC), boys and girls ages 10-17 (TNTRC), and boys and girls ages 10-17 (NYCRC).

The mission of these camps is to support a culture of positive self-esteem and collaboration among young people while building community through music. These camps recognize the potential of every young person to be a strong, talented, creative, and empowered individual while providing a safe space where everyone “rocks.” In addition to instrument instruction, the camps offer workshops through which campers will learn the skills of songwriting, recording, and screen printing, as well as the invaluable life skills of teamwork and collaboration as they work together to complete projects over the course of the week. The campers are also treated every day to exclusive, live performances by local, regional, and national bands and artists, providing them the opportunity to experience a diverse range of musical styles.



ZUMIX empowers youth who use music to make strong positive change in their lives, their communities, and the world. Like a lot of good ideas, ZUMIX started in someone’s living room.  Co-Founders Bob Grove and current Executive Director Madeleine Steczynski founded ZUMIX in 1991 as a response to Boston’s worst wave of youth violence.  ZUMIX began as a summer songwriting program with 24 youth, $200, and the simple idea that giving youth something to be passionate about could transform lives and elevate communities.

Our programming quickly expanded.  In 1993 we created a free outdoor Summer Concert Series in order to serve the broader community.  Today, our year-round events are organized to provide East Boston residents with access to top-quality arts and cultural events.

Today ZUMIX serves over 400 youth per year through after-school and summer programming and 450 through in-school partnerships.  Over 6,000 additional adults, children, and families attend our community events and festivals.

[1] The Rand Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis.

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