The Open String (TOS) is a volunteer-based, non-profit organization that fulfills a unique need: it supports musicians in need by lending or donating stringed instruments that sound great, stay in tune, play easily, and look good - the much needed tools for teachers and students to succeed in the growing music education movement. Through its String Drive program, TOS collects and redistributes strings and supplies. Through its Annual Grant Program, TOS raises funds to source new, quality violins, violas, and cellos for children, students, and aspiring soloists. TOS special events serve to promote music appreciation and give back to our community of supporters.
THE OPEN STRING ON CBS EVENING NEWS!
Jim Axelrod presents Robert Brewer Young and The Open String's mission to support musicians in need through violinmaking service and to provide instruments to schools and music education programs. This aired on CBS Evening News April 23, 2016 and brought much attention to our cause.
STRINGS FOR CHANGE - A JOINT PROGRAM
In collaboration with Sistema Global and with the generous support of the D'addario Foundation, The Open String has supplied over 700 strings to music programs in Argentina (Rosario), Cuba (Havana), and Kenya (Nairobi) in April 2016 alone. This project is continuing through 2016 and aims at providing strings to about two dozen programs worldwide.
THE MUSIC MOVEMENT
In disadvantaged communities throughout the world, from Southern barrios to Northern inner cities, children and teens are learning to play stringed instruments together in youth orchestras. This keeps them off the streets, out of gangs, and on track with school.
Spawned by the El Sistema movement that was developed in Venezuela in the 1970s, a growing number of afterschool programs provide free musical education to at-risk youth. Over one hundred of these are in the USA and over 400 El Sistema-based programs worldwide serve close to one million child musicians.
Several studies show that children playing music, especially together and on fretless stringed instruments, enjoy higher brain development. Math and test scores go up, communication improves, and violent behavior decreases. These findings have been applied in pedagogically progressive schools for several decades.
These free music programs are both demanding and rewarding. They require that participants maintain good academic standing and stay out of trouble. They provide joy, structure, self-confidence and a sense of security in otherwise threatening and bleak environments. They also can offer valuable options and alternatives to a life of violence and crime.
Well-maintained, fine instruments are essential for the success of any player. Not having an instrument in the first place denies students the opportunity to achieve excellence. Broken or neglected instruments sap motivation and interest. Outgrown instruments hamper progress and dampen rising stars. These problems are faced too often by young music students, graduates, and young professionals in already underfunded music programs and institutions.
On the frontline, many free music programs and youth orchestras lack good tools needed to grow and thrive, in spite of amazing resourcefulness. Lacking funds and expertise, they often rely on a mélange of donated and low quality instruments that can pose numerous problems:
- Salvaged and requiring repairs
- Poor sound
- Won’t stay in tune
- Hard to play
- Inconsistency of quality distracts kids
- Complicates teacher’s job
- Built from low-grade materials
- Nefarious workshop conditions
- Toxic varnish residue
- Unsustainably harvested materials
OPEN STRING SUPPORTS MUSICIANS IN NEED BY LENDING & DONATING QUALITY INSTRUMENTS
The Open String builds on over twenty years of violinmaking expertise and charitable work towards the end of providing higher quality instruments to a wide range of musicians in need. Long-standing relations with established, quality-focused workshops make it possible for TOS to source superior student instruments at deep discounts and in large quantities if necessary. For advanced musicians, affiliated violinmakers can provide conservatory and concert-grade instruments on loan. Donated legacy instruments are also matched with rising talent.
By placing over 500 stringed instruments in the hands of underprivileged students since 1996, violinmaker and TOS co-founder Robert Brewer Young has dedicated a significant portion of his career to this effort. This consisted largely of repairing, refurbishing, and setting up instruments that were donated, damaged, or simply abandoned in attics.
Today, this practices continues with instruments of a certain level and value, but beginners and students are better helped with newer instruments that are consistent in quality, age, size, and sturdiness. This makes things far more manageable for program teachers and much more motivating for students.
The Open String was founded in 2014 to achieve this qualitative jump and to provide a larger number of music programs and individuals in need of help with better violins and cellos. Most new instruments are donated to existing programs. Less established programs can receive instruments on loan until they have grown stable and then receive their inventory as a gift.
The Open String also organizes events, concerts, and workshops to promote music played on stringed instruments, from classical to modern, and preserve appreciation for the special qualities of this important human tradition.
Support The Open String and help realize musical talent that would otherwise not flourish, help children grow into citizens, and help educators succeed in this mission. You can put much needed instruments in the hands of thousands of eager students in free music programs across the world. All of the following are needed and appreciated:
Since the early 1990s, master violinmaker Robert Brewer Young has donated considerable time and effort to repair and maintain damaged violins, violas, and cellos owned by the Third Street Music Settlement, the New York City public school system, and others, including Roberta Guaspari of Opus 118, the Harlem School for Strings featured in the film “Music of the Heart.” Hundreds of discarded instruments were put back into the hands of budding musicians by his efforts.
While working for prominent soloists on violins made by Stradivari and Guarneri in the studios of Carnegie Hall, Robert made concert quality instruments available to young professionals who could not afford them and put historical violins, violas and cellos into the hands of promising musicians. Broken fiddles were turned into collections worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Robert also provided instruments for orchestras at schools for the blind in New York and Calcutta, established violin programs for indigenous communities in the southwest United States, and secured instruments, strings, and supplies for musicians during the siege of Sarajevo. Students who benefited from his contributions have, in the intervening years, graduated from prestigious music schools and are now enjoying thriving professional careers.
Robert co-founded The Open String in 2014 to continue this practice of community service at a higher, broader level and to share the opportunity with other interested supporters as well.