Music can be restorative, empowering, therapeutic; these are indisputable, time-tested truths. As a musician, you’ve got the power to bring those benefits to anyone who’ll listen — and you can amplify those effects through charitable organizations.
Whether it’s volunteering your skills, teaching kids, leading a workshop, or donating funds raised through special shows, your contribution — big or small — could make a huge impact. We’ve rounded up five music-centric organizations that welcome help year-round; read on to learn more about their efforts and how you can give back through music.
1. Girls Rock Camp
You’ve probably heard of Girls Rock Camp already — the nonprofit Girls Rock Camp Alliance is vast, including nearly 60 organizations in the U.S. alone, plus camps in Canada, South America, Europe, Japan, and Australia.
Each is its own organization — some of them founded even before the coalition was established in 2007 — but they all generally follow the same awesome initiative: to empower girls and women, as well as non-binary and trans kids and young adults, through music. Programming aims to foster community, encourage creativity, build self-confidence, and, of course, develop the musicianship of so many fledgling rock ‘n’ rollers.
No matter your own skill level, if there’s a camp near you, they’d likely love to have your help. Year-round opportunities abound (their programming isn’t limited only to week-long summer camps), from coaching bands to leading workshops, or simply lending a hand behind the scenes at specific events.
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For career musicians struggling to overcome financial burdens resulting from serious medical conditions, Sweet Relief can be a bona fide blessing. The nonprofit charity raises funds to help out instrumentalists, vocalists, songwriters, composers, arrangers, and songwriters in need.
The organization welcomes donations, and also auctions off music memorabilia online. They’re supported by a kaleidoscopic litany of famous bands and artists, including Ani DiFranco, Al Green, Animal Collective, Steve Aoki, No Doubt, and Rod Stewart.
This community-centric organization advocates for boys and young men of color through its hip-hop workshops, studio lab sessions, and confidence-boosting open mic events. The clinicians, teachers, and social workers of BRL use music and creative expression as therapy, as a bedrock for mentorship, for youth outreach, and for workforce development. It’s an incredibly beneficial initiative running strong in multiple major cities (Oakland, San Francisco, New York)
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Based in Huntington Beach, Rock to Recovery was founded five years ago by former Korn guitarist Wes Geer on the foundation of music as a tool for healing and transformation.
The organization helps those dealing with alcoholism or drug addiction, people with mental health issues, survivors of abuse, and other groups in the process of rehabilitation and treatment by implementing a band-creation program, which is guided by musicians who are also in recovery. Participants learn to play (or beef up existing skills) as they create music and lyrics, promoting positive self-esteem, confidence, and healthy stress relief.
Volunteer musicians deliver live and recorded music to patients in healthcare facilities through Musicians on Call, an organization founded in New York almost two decades ago. Their bedside performances — sometimes in person, sometimes virtual — offer relief and joy. Their Project Playback initiative gathers together patients for the therapeutic process of writing and recording their own original music. And through Music Pharmacy, more than 170,000 customized mix CDs have been provided to patients at more than 800 healthcare facilities.