Music4Life™ started in 2007 when Richard N.J. “Dick” Lee of Seattle Public Schools invited me to coffee at the Tully’s in Magnolia. Dick said that I was about the only Rotarian he knew and wondered whether I thought there might be someone in the Rotary Club of Seattle who might be interested in helping acquire some “lovingly used” musical instruments for kids in Seattle Schools. My response was as found on the endorsement page of this website, but that I thought we needed a bigger purpose. So, I offered to develop a program plan and told Dick we could meet in a couple weeks to discuss it. That program plan, which included the name “Music4Life,” is what we continue implementing to this day.
So Music4Life began as a demonstration project to help kids in the Seattle Public School District. Since then, additional programs have been started (in chronological order) at the request of the superintendents in the public school districts of Highline, Shoreline, Edmonds, Everett, Northshore, Bremerton and Auburn. Numerous other requests to set-up local Music4Life chapters are being considered, most notably in the Kent School District and Marysville Public Schools.
The original name of our organization was “Rotary Music4Life,” because the concept was that it could be done anywhere there’s a Rotary club. There are nearly 33,000 Rotary clubs around the world, meaning there’s a Rotary club nearly everywhere you go. There’s even one in my little, rural hometown of Viroqua, Wisconsin. And like all Rotary clubs, its’ members are local leaders dedicated to community service.
As a Rotarian I thought Rotary would be a good foundation from which to build. A year or so later, a couple of Rotary Distinct governors (each Rotary District is comprised of about 3,000 Rotarians) told me that we should remove the word “Rotary” from our name because it suggested an endorsement (by Rotary International) that we didn’t have. They said the lawyers at R.I. back at corporate headquarters jealously guard the integrity of the word “Rotary.” The governors also said that, while we were at it, we also should set-up a separate 501(c)(3) organization for liability and other legal purposes. Thus, Rotary Music4Life became just Music4Life and we set-up the separate non-profit organization that now delivers about 2,000 donated and repaired musical instruments each year for use by students in need.
Music4Life is not just a double entendre, but a triple. First, we take kids off the streets, away from gangs and drugs and other negative influences, and give them something meaningful to do with their time. Second, we help open the wonderful world of music to them for the rest of their lives. And third, we founded it with the blessing of 2007-08 Seattle Rotary (also known as “Seattle Number 4” because it was the fourth Rotary club chartered in the history of Rotary International) President John Iverson, also a former President of the Seattle Opera Guild. At that time, I was and still am a member of Seattle #4.
Dick Lee was a star basketballer for the Washington Huskies and now is pursuing his athletic interests. Through the good graces of supporters like the internationally prominent law firm of Garvey Schubert Barer, who provides all Music4Life legal work on a pro bono basis, and many other enthusiasts, our work goes on.