Spokane area high schools gifted dozens of guitars, piano keyboards from Future Song Foundation
By Nina Culver
The music programs at four Spokane high schools got a boost recently with a donation of 80 guitars and 20 keyboards from the Future Song Foundation.
The foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 2015 by award winning musician, composer and teacher Joe Brasch and Alter Bridge singer-songwriter and guitarist Myles Kennedy.
“We are a foundation that is always looking for need in the community,” said Brasch, the foundation’s CEO. “Funds are tight for everything, especially the arts. That’s where Future Song can really help.”
Spokane Public Schools offers piano and guitar classes and found itself in need of instruments. Rogers High School had a piano class on the schedule but no keyboards. Equipment at other schools was old and had been frequently repaired, said Carol Pederson, K-12 Visual and Performing Arts coordinator.
“To teach a class well you need good equipment,” she said.
Teachers were also short on guitars. “We’ve been able to buy some over the years,” she said. “Mostly students who come to that class provide their own.”
Students would bring in a wide range of guitars, including both acoustic and electric. Students who could afford to buy one often didn’t know the right kind to buy, Pederson said.
“A lot of those kids are on free and reduced lunches,” instructional materials resource specialist J.J. Johnson said. “They’re more concerned about eating than buying a guitar.”
Students are required to take two performing arts credits to graduate, which most do by taking theater, band or orchestra, Pederson said. Guitar and piano classes offer students other options and having new instruments allows anyone to take the classes.
“It just makes it more equitable, more accessible to students,” she said.
Johnson heard about the instrument shortage and remembered meeting Brasch and talking about Future Song. He suggested asking the group for a donation.
“I presented it to Future Song, and they were all over it,” he said.
Instead of telling the district what they could give, the foundation asked what the district needed, Pederson said.
North Central High School received 10 keyboards and 23 guitars, Rogers High School got 10 keyboards and 21 guitars, and Lewis and Clark and Shadle Park high schools each received 16 guitars. The keyboards came with stands and various accessories while the guitars came with three sets of strings, a case and a capo.
The foundation also donated four PRS SE A50E acoustic guitars valued at $1,000 each. There will be one at each high school and the higher quality guitars will be reserved for students who have extra skill and passion for the instrument, Pederson said.
Brasch said his organization is dedicated to allowing young students to learn music.
“It was truly a no-brainer for us,” he said of the donation. “What we really believe is music is an intricate part of education. We’re really about making sure every kid who wants to play can play.”
Playing music teaches creativity and teamwork as well as respect, listening skills and discipline, Brasch said.
“It’s almost like a microcosm of all the things we want to see in society,” he said. “It’s been shown that it helps all the other areas of learning. Plus, it’s just so fun to be able to play.”
Brasch, 62, said he’s been playing the guitar since he was 7 years old and can’t wait to pick up his instrument every day.
“The sound of that instrument is just fascinating to me,” he said. “It’s just magic.”
Future Song’s inaugural project was to start a ukulele program at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Spokane County.
“It did our hearts a lot of good to see these huge kids playing the ukulele,” he said. “It was a lot of fun.”
The foundation has also started a drum program at Morningstar Boys Ranch and built a music room and filled it with donated instruments at the Excelsior Youth Center.
They have no plans to slow down, and people are welcome to visit the group’s website at www.futuresong.org to request help with a musical need, Brasch said.
“We’re a small but mighty group,” he said.