A month ago, we were contacted by a musically-inclined young man on a mission to revitalize local music education programs. Appreciative of the music education he has received as a budding guitar virtuoso, twelve year old Eli Rosen wanted to grant others the same opportunities. Inspired to make a change, he set out to on a mission to collect second-hand guitars for donation to poorly-funded schools. Thus far, Eli has collected 10 guitars, and has already chosen a school in Camden, NJ to receive them. Eli plans to teach beginning guitar to the recipients, and even hopes to stage a fundraising concert for his cause. The Fender Music Foundation has donated a guitar to Eli, in hopes that anyone else with old or unwanted guitars will do the same. In the following interview, it is apparent that Eli is heading for great heights, and will accomplish extraordinary feats. Philanthropy truly has no age requirement.
What inspired you to help this music program in need?
I’ve been playing guitar for about three years and it’s made a huge difference in my life. Playing the guitar has given me a way to express myself and be creative. It has also taught me that by practicing regularly you will learn discipline. Two and a half years ago I couldn’t play one note on the guitar. After giving the time and practicing over and over again I was able to play songs. I would not be able to play the guitar like I can now if I didn’t practice or have a guitar in the first place. I feel so much joy and passion for playing the guitar and I want other kids to have that same opportunity. This is why I wanted to give something back and donate to a school in need.
Are you a student of the music teacher you have set out on a mission to help?
No, I’m not a student of the music teacher. As I was looking for a school to be the recipient of this donation, by chance, I met Joe Fertsch who is a great music teacher in Camden, NJ. He loves his job and more importantly the kids he does it for. But, the school is in a disadvantaged area and all they can afford for their music program is five-gallon buckets to bang on. So I want to give those kids a chance that they may not have otherwise.
How many guitars have you been able to collect thus far on your mission?
So far I’ve collected ten guitars to donate, but my goal is to reach up to twenty-five. I think that the more guitars collected-the more children have the opportunity to play.
How were you able to obtain these guitars?
I collected the guitars from individuals, businesses, and organizations. But really it’s about spreading the word. If I told one person about my project-they would tell a friend and then they would tell someone else and so on and so on. I hope this continues, maybe even enough to surpass my goal which could lead to helping other schools in need.
You say you have been playing guitar for 3 years. Who are your greatest guitar influences?
I’d say Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan are some of my favorites. I have many guitar influences, most of them blues guitarists. I also admire Tommy Emmanuel’s acoustic style. But, I can’t leave out Ted Velykis…my awesome guitar teacher!
What are your favorite bands/artists?
My favorite band has always been The Beatles, but I like a lot of bands and artists, old and new. Some other bands or artists that I like are Led Zeppelin, John Mayer, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dave Mathews Band, and Coldplay.
You mentioned that you might be putting on a fundraising concert. Are you in a band of your own that might perform at this concert?
Yes, my band is going to play at the concert and there are also going to be a number of other bands there.
Why do you think it is important for there to be a thriving music education program in school?
Music is sometimes known as the universal language. If bad things are happening music is something where everyone can get along. It’s math-quarter notes, half notes, whole notes. It’s culture-Latin, Chicago Blues, Hip-Hop. Really, music is tied to everything that is taught in school and in life. Kids can learn to work hard and be dedicated to learning music. It can also teach kids to work together, if they ever start a band. Music is a gift and a music education program is the wrapping paper.
If you or anyone you know has a guitar they are willing to part with, please comment and we will relay the message to Eli, who hopes to collect enough guitars to donate to other schools in need.