AFT partners with Hungry for Music, bringing musical instruments to kids

The AFT has launched a new partnership with the nonprofit Hungry for Music, which distributes new and refurbished musical instruments to kids and school programs in need—similar to what the AFT does with books in our Reading Opens the World campaign.

Hungry for Music group
The Cleveland Teachers Union stuffed goody bags with music-themed children’s books and prizes. Volunteers distributed nearly 400 books. From left, Joanne Quinnie, Cheryl West, Christy Rorick-Brown, Cecilia Lee, Wendi Kral, Helen Boru, Cassandra Carter and Kim Bryant-Austin. Photo by Kay Coyte.

AFT Secretary-Treasurer Fedrick Ingram got the partnership going earlier this year. As a professional musician and former high school band director himself, he grasps the importance of bringing children the joy of music. He also understands the need because he attended public school in a Miami neighborhood where families like his couldn’t always afford to buy or rent musical instruments.

“This collaboration between the AFT and Hungry for Music is near and dear to my heart,” Ingram says. “Music education is the key ingredient for many students to thrive. I can’t wait for us to get things rolling with our members and local affiliates around the country. We’re starting in the Great Lakes region this summer and fall, and will be swinging through the South next spring, starting with my hometown. I’m pumped!”

To kick off our new partnership, the Cleveland Teachers Union joined Hungry for Music in a Reading Opens the World event at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s annual summer Fam Jam in Cleveland. The AFT, in collaboration with longtime partner First Book, provided hundreds of free children’s books on musical topics—such as the lives of musicians like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Elvis Presley and Mahalia Jackson; Native American music; the history of the blues; and so much more. The collection included several Spanish-language editions.

FamJam at Rock n Roll Hall of Fame
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland provided a great backdrop this summer for kids to learn about and experience the joy of music. This is why they say, “Cleveland rocks!” Photo by Bruce Winges.

Volunteers distributed nearly 400 books in CTU goody bags on a beautiful weekend day in late June, accompanied by a dynamic drum performance by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio and such fun activities as a musical instrument “petting zoo” with instruments young children could touch, hear and learn about.

By the end of the day, Hungry for Music had received a donation of a Fender acoustic guitar destined for an aspiring young rock star, and had distributed drums and other guitars to children in the Boys & Girls Clubs.

At each of these events, our AFT affiliate sets up a booth next to Hungry for Music. AFT members distribute new, music-related children’s books, while Hungry for Music both collects donations of musical instruments and distributes new and refurbished instruments to kids in need who have requested them. Just as Hungry for Music spreads the joy of music, Reading Opens the World spreads the joy of reading by providing books for kids, families, classrooms and educators.

Strong Title I ties

Boys & Girls club receives instruments
During the annual Fam Jam at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio gave a rousing drum performance, and by the end of the day, Hungry for Music had distributed drums and guitars to several children in the clubs. Photo by Jeff Campbell.

Hungry for Music also has a Title I musical instrument program up and running. Through Oct. 15, music teachers, social workers and paraprofessionals at Title I schools who work in music or music therapy can request free instruments for children who cannot participate because of financial hardship. The program limits requests to a few instruments per teacher and is already running low on inventory this fall. It sends instruments to Title I schools, after-school music programs and social workers whose clients would benefit from music therapy.

“We want to increase our outreach of supporting students in school and after-school programs with musical instruments, giving them an opportunity that they would not otherwise have,” says Jeff Campbell, Hungry for Music’s founder and director.

You can follow Hungry for Music on its website and Facebook. If you have a musical instrument lying around unused, you can donate it here. Hungry for Music has a powerful network of professional volunteers who repair instruments and supply parts like picks, bows, strings and cases.

Since becoming a nonprofit in 1994, Hungry for Music has brought music to more than 16,000 children in 50 states and 32 countries, mostly through school and community youth programs.

Plans are afoot for three more joint events this fall in the Midwest, where the AFT and Hungry for Music hope to collaborate on music education and literacy events. Then in early 2023, the AFT will join Hungry for Music on its spring tour, kicking off in Miami-Dade with the United Teachers of Dade, the largest teachers union in the southeastern United States, followed by travels around Florida and visits to AFT locals in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.

[Annette Licitra]