May Non-Profit: Guitars 4 Gifts

“Sometimes one of the refugees would sing a song in a different language and you couldn’t understand what they were singing, but you could still feel how much joy they had when they were playing," explained 17-year-old Anna Clark, founder of Guitars 4 Gifts.  "It was just really cool to feel what they were feeling even though we weren’t speaking the same language."

Since 2011, Guitars 4 Gifts (G4G) has been giving away guitars and other instruments to people who crave the energy of creating music but don’t have the means to access the tools needed.

And yes, you did the math right, Anna was 11-years-old when she began this endeavor, but I don’t want to focus on her age, though she is quite the impressive human being.

G4G originally focused on providing instruments to underserved youth, but they expanded to other groups when they saw the need for music in a wide variety of populations.  Now they provide instruments to refugees, veterans and any group in need. G4G has given instruments to people not only in the U.S. but also Nicaragua, China and Africa.

The endeavor was originally sparked through the annual donation Anna and her family made to her church’s “Christmas basket.”  She and her sister would save some of their allowance throughout the year in order to contribute to the Christmas basket, and it was at age 11 that Anna began noticing there were a multitude of goodies for the wee little ones, but there weren’t many items that would actually spark the interest of older kids and teenagers.  That’s when she decided to donate a couple of guitars.

Don’t let the name of the nonprofit fool you though, as they do not merely dabble in guitar giving nowadays (though that was where it began).  G4G gives away and accepts a myriad of instruments for donation and distribution, including ukuleles, electric basses, cajons, and they are about to begin giving away violins and violas.

“Our mission is really to help heal and communicate with other people through learning music,” Anna explained.

“I feel like it’s such a good way to heal and cope with different things that go on in life.

“When I was younger I really had a hard time with anxiety, and I was just super shy.  I feel like once I was able to start writing music and performing, it just became easier for me to share my story and communicate with other people.”

After starting Guitars 4 Gifts, she realized many others felt the same.  Music was a safe way for them to share their experiences, and it enabled others to understand what they were going through.

Clearly, Guitars 4 Gifts is doing much more than merely giving away instruments (which in itself is not a mere thing).  Yes, food is essential, housing is essential, but music transcends the physical and delves into the emotional. You can take away food, shelter and clothing from someone, but you cannot take away the music they have to offer, nor can you remove all the ways that music has contributed to and benefited their life.

I think we’re all searching for some kind of connection, some kind of bond with the rest of the human race.  We all desire community and camaraderie. We need that fuzzy, tangible, fleshy feeling of being in the same arena as others.  This is what music does for people. This is what Guitars 4 Gifts is doing for everyone it serves, and in a sense it is serving all people.  We all benefit from the music being created through the instruments given away. This nonprofit has existed for about seven years, and I just dare to contemplate what extraordinary musicians will be created from the seemingly simple act of giving an instrument.

Fun facts: playing a musical instrument can help prevent and lessen the impact of Alzheimer’s and other degenerative brain diseases, it increases memory capacity and function, and your brain literally grows.  Nerve fibers enlarge and strengthen, and grey matter increases. (*readers immediately run to nearest instrument upon reading this*)

It also promotes creativity, decreases stress, increases confidence, creates a sense of achievement and builds discipline.  Woah, right? Go pick up that electric guitar you have lodged under your bed building dusty layers of who-knows-what. Or snag that key board that still has chip crumbs lodged in it from 1999.  You’ll thank yourself. (Or if you don’t think you’ll play it, donate it to G4G! Everybody wins!)

Music brings together cultures, languages and practices into a unifying body.  You can’t hear accents when singing, and the sounds of instruments transcend any form of verbal communication.  We can all realize and in some way experience the feelings of musicians as the notes unfold.

“I love to feel like we are connected to people all over the world through music,” said Anna.

G4G accepts donations from individuals and organizations to put toward purchasing instruments for specific projects.  They also receive factory second instruments from certain companies and use them in their donating process. Individuals can of course donate instruments as well.  

Come to Nashville Offbeat’s showcase on Thursday, May 31st at The 5 Spot at 5:30!  Bring any instrument that you want to donate.  If you think you’ll bring an instrument, shoot us an email so we can gauge how much we might have.

Just for kicks.  “What does music mean to you?” from local musicians and writers:

“To me, music is the truest form of self-expression. It serves a cathartic purpose where emotions are fluid and undefined. It is the ultimate therapy for anyone involved. It's not about instruments, notes, or sound, but the level of open-heartedness. Music is an entity, and humans are the tools. Music flows through our mind like water through our body. The biggest impact on me is the revelation that music transcends culture and has the ability to bring people together from all over the world. Honestly, the impact of music on my life is insurmountable.” – Dakota Eddy, musician of Middle Tennessee and drummer of the band SixNip.

“In the womb, the first thing we hear constantly is the beat of our mother’s heart. Rhythm, music, it is ingrained in our lives.  Consciously, subconsciously, we all are influenced by music. It gives me reason, reassurance, guidance.” - Jill Michaelson, musician of Middle Tennessee.

“Music calms me down but it also helps me, hmm, focus and center. It allows me to think without intrusive thoughts because I can focus on the song and that is a way of clearing my brain waves, honestly! But it also helps me find meaning too in my life and direction and allows me to see and express beauty!” – Nelson Maddaloni, writer of Middle Tennessee.


April Non-profit: The Nashville Food Project

April Non-profit: The Nashville Food Project