By J Mullineaux

This year I decided to honor my mother on Mother’s Day by purchasing a trumpet and donating it to the Music for Schools Program at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts. My mother inspired me to play the trumpet – in fact, my mother encouraged me to do anything in life that made me happy. I grew up loving the arts (my mother was my first dance partner!) so I’m happy I can honor her in this very simple, yet profound way. Her gift to me will now be a gift that other young people experience.

At Community Foundation Sonoma County we pride ourselves in asking thought-provoking questions to engage our donors and uncover their deepest motivations. Asking great questions is an important part of our philanthropic advising work. Carefully chosen questions give you the tools to get inside the heart of a donor where the most helpful responses and storytelling resides. The questions we select have the power to give new life to conversations in unexpected and delightful ways. I have a favorite question that I like to ask new donors, “Is there an experience you’ve had in your life that you would like others to have?

When I answered that question for myself, I remembered my public grade school providing me with a trumpet. I didn’t become a very good musician but I went on to play bass baritone in the high school band and I marched with a drum and bugle corps and learned the importance of focus, discipline and team-work. I also went on to become a modern dancer and then worked in administration for the San Francisco Ballet for eight years which really launched my career. When I look back, I can see how the practice of playing a musical instrument had a profound impact on my life and exposed me to experiences I might not have had.

My mother played trumpet in high school and I always thought I had the coolest mom, so I wanted to play the trumpet, too. The first year my school ran out of trumpets and I was handed a clarinet – fortunately I got my trumpet the following year. My family had very few personal possessions when I was growing up so the mere fact that I had such a valuable item in my custody was a very big deal. I think I polished that instrument every day!

Since 1999 the Music for Schools Program at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts has been providing instruments to students who cannot afford their own. Music for Schools has over 400 instruments in a lending library that they provide annually to Sonoma County students. They are in great need of clarinets, trumpets and smaller sized violins.  More expensive items that they would love to have are a couple of bassoons and violas.

There are many positive impacts of music education on a young child’s life, 1) music encourages students to stay in school; 2) music helps children understand the multicultural world in which we live; 3) music builds self-esteem; and 4) music contributes to higher test scores by providing core lessons in many subjects. This was certainly my experience. I was the first person in my family to go to college (an achievement that made my mother “the happiest mom”). But more importantly, music helped me learn to share my humanism, express thoughts and feelings, and contribute to the infinite and collective spirit we call “life.”

Is there an experience you’ve had in your life that you would like others to have?

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