Jennifer Crews—Desert Sounds

Updated: Jun 26, 2020

Volunteers and Music—Making a Difference for Students

A 14 year old voluntarily helping a friend has inspired a movement that now reaches nearly 600 students each year and is growing. Jeremy and his friend played in the high school band until the friend’s parents divorced and he no longer had a trumpet to play. In their school district, funds were tight and consequently parents had to provide most of the instruments. Jeremy convinced his friend to switch to a clarinet, which the school did have, but neither the school nor the friend’s dad could afford to buy the reeds for the instrument. Jeremy found a job and dedicated his earnings to his friend so that he could play in the band. His selfless action became the Jeremy Project, which is now Desert Sounds.

The mission of Desert Sounds, based in the Phoenix area, is to provide children and youth access to music education. Research confirms what parents see when their children begin to play an instrument: Because music engages both sides of the brain, students do better in both math and reading. Jeremy knew this phenomenon first hand. He had struggled with a learning disability and did not read until he was in band in the eighth grade.

The organization, now ten years old, provides not only instruments to nearly 600 students but also works with volunteers to create and manage programming that gives students a sense of belonging, the opportunity to learn, and occasions to share their music. Musical Mentors gives one-on-one music lessons but goes a step further to create a mentoring relationship that helps students thrive in life as well as in band. The Mariachi Band goes out into the community to perform, to the delight of the hearers and the performers. The Electric Orchestra brings together technology and music, which appeals to particular students and consequently helps stem the dropout rate from traditional band in the vulnerable early teen years.

Like Jeremy, volunteers make all that possible. Musicians and non-musicians alike are crucial for not only working with the students but also for communicating to the community about the need and the organization. Volunteers also handle the administrative tasks that keep Desert Sounds on track for their stated goal of reaching 1,000 students each year!

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