Hi, my name is Kevin McInturff and I have always loved music. In high school, I had a garage band (which drove the neighbors crazy), I sang in choirs, and played the piano and guitar. When I got older, someone talked me into going to Hungary to teach English and Music in a high school in Budapest. I did that for three years and loved it. After returning to the US, I went back to working jobs and raising my kids. Now that my kids are grown and my wife and I divorced a few years ago (yes, bummer) I was thinking about my next step when I came across some information about kids in Ecuador.
The Children of Ecuador
For the children of Ecuador, the future does not look very promising. Youth in Ecuador are currently more likely to live in poverty and are less likely to have regular employment when they get older. Those who do have jobs tend to work in low-production positions—often in family-run businesses, domestic service or a micro-enterprise. Girls in Ecuador are particularly vulnerable to long-term poverty. One in five girls between the ages of 15 and 19 will experience at least one pregnancy, causing many to drop out of school. The challenge facing boys is no less difficult. Because there are few jobs, especially in rural areas, many young men move to the cities in search of economic opportunity. For those who do not succeed in finding work, the alternative is to turn to illegal and dangerous activities.
While issues like the above require improvement in the areas of economic development and better education, one solution often overlooked is the benefit of musical training.
Why Musical Training
- Early musical training helps develop brain areas involved in language and reasoning. Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint information on young minds.
- There is also a causal link between music and spatial intelligence (the ability to perceive the world accurately and to form mental pictures of things).
- Students of the arts learn to think creatively and to solve problems by imagining various solutions, rejecting outdated rules and assumptions. Questions about the arts do not have only one right answer.
- A study of the arts provides children with an internal glimpse of other cultures and teaches them to be empathetic towards the people of these cultures.
- Students of music learn craftsmanship as they study how details are put together painstakingly and what constitutes good, as opposed to mediocre, work. These standards, when applied to a student's own work, demand a new level of excellence and require students to stretch their inner resources.
- In music, a mistake is a mistake; the instrument is in tune or not, the notes are well played or not, the entrance is made or not. It is only by much hard work that a successful performance is possible. Through music study, students learn the value of sustained effort to achieve excellence and the concrete rewards of hard work.
- Music study enhances teamwork skills and discipline. In order for a band to sound good, all players must work together harmoniously towards a single goal, the performance, and must commit to learning music, attending rehearsals, and practicing.
- Music provides children with a means of self-expression. Self-esteem is a by-product of this self-expression.
- Music study develops skills that are necessary in the workplace. It focuses on "doing," as opposed to observing, and teaches students how to perform, literally, anywhere in the world. Employers are looking for multi-dimensional workers with the sort of flexible and supple intellects that music education helps to create as described above. In the music classroom, students can also learn to better communicate and cooperate with one another.
- Music performance teaches young people to conquer fear and to take risks. A little anxiety is a good thing, and something that will occur often in life. Dealing with it early and often makes it less of a problem later. Risk-taking is essential if a child is to fully develop his or her potential. Music contributes to mental health and can help prevent risky behavior such as drug abuse.
The Cuenca School of Music
Given the benefits that music study and performance can offer young people, I came up with the idea of starting a school of music in Cuenca Ecuador. Cuenca is one of the larger cites of Ecuador with a population of around 500,000 people. It sits in the Andes Mountains in the southern part of the country. In order to keep costs down, I made the decision to place the school in a suburb of Cuenca rather than the city center where the rents are more expensive. I will offer music theory, instruction in keyboard and guitar, along with performances all of which will be free of charge to the children and their families.
No Free Lunch
Of course to do this, the school needs supporters like you. My annual budget is $18,000 a year for ongoing expenses plus $5,000 for startup costs. This covers rent, utilities, music, instruments, travel, legal fees, living expenses, etc. Ok, now that may sound expensive, but just think about it. That translates to just 100 people giving $15 a month for one year. That’s less than 50 cents a day to help a child. That is less than a cup of coffee or a soda or even a candy bar. That may sound cliché, but it is true nonetheless.
The Big Question
So are you willing to be one of those 100 persons? For 50 cents a day, are you willing to make a difference in the life of a young person in Ecuador? No one can save the world by themselves, but you can make a world of difference for one person living in Ecuador by giving the gift of music. So come and be a part of the Cuenca School of Music. (For the first 100 persons, who donate $180 or more, you will receive a certificate acknowledging you as part of the founders club and your name will be inscribed on a plaque which will be hung in the school where families can see that you were one who made this possible.) Also, did I mention that you get a free coffee mug with our logo on it?