Since 1996, VH1’s Save The Music Foundation has let classrooms across the country ring out with harmony. On Oct. 17, the nonprofit celebrated its 20th anniversary by ringing a different type of instrument—NASDAQ’s Closing Bell.
“We’re proud to have Viacom part of the NASDAQ family of companies,” said NASDAQ Vice President David Wicks. “The benefits of music education are truly astounding. Studies have shown the immensely positive effect that music education has on a child’s academic performance, sense of community, self-expression, and self-esteem.”
— Nasdaq (@NASDAQ) October 17, 2016
VH1’s Save The Music ambassador Spencer Ludwig and Executive Director Henry Donahue each shared their love for music before ringing the closing bell. Donahue, a lifelong guitar and trumpet player, dedicated his professional life to nonprofit work. He’s able to channel his passion for music and social justice at VH1, a network he grew up with. “I remember watching VH1 Divas Live and Celine Dion,” said Donahue.
Ludwig is a musical MacGyver. The 27-year-old trumpet player, singer-songwriter, producer, and dancer is one of 2016’s breakout artists. His electrifying sound, catchy lyrics, and dazzling dance moves channel Michael Jackson. In September, Ludwig’s first single Diggy was featured in Target’s Fashion Week ad spot. Users on Twitter quickly declared his song the hottest fall jam. The virtuoso is signed to Warner Bros. Records, and set to drop an album next year.
But Ludwig’s long road to musical celebrity began in a place common to most of us: the classroom, where he first picked up a saxophone and discovered jazz music in fourth grade.
“Luckily, my school was able to offer really good music education,” said Ludwig, who attended private school in Los Angeles, California.
Not everyone is so lucky. If Ludwig’s school had cut music classes from the budget, he may have never tapped into his natural talent. This is the unfortunate reality for many students across the country. VH1’s Save The Music Foundation is working to change this.
Since 1996, the nonprofit has donated over $50 million in musical instruments to over 2,000 public schools. This philanthropy has benefited three million children, mostly from underprivileged districts. Some of those kids may be on their way to becoming the next Spencer Ludwig.
Even if they don’t become professional musicians, they’re still headed toward a brighter future. Music education doesn’t just teach kids how to play an instrument—it’s linked to higher graduation rates, better leadership skills, and enhanced cognitive development. Not only are children in underfunded public schools deprived of music, they risk falling behind their peers in English and math.
“VH1’s Save The Music Foundation is dedicated to the idea that every public school kid in America should have access to music education,” said Donahue. “I’m thrilled to be celebrating our 20th anniversary, and launching our 20th anniversary campaign, which is called ‘Play It Forward.’ The idea is, 20 years from now, we can make sure that every kid in America has access to music education.”
All photography by Christopher Galluzzo / Nasdaq, Inc.
Two children from Thurgood Marshall Academy, a New York City public school that Save The Music serves, joined VH1’s team to ring the bell. According to one of these burgeoning talents, “Music is fun. you get to hear the sound, the pitches, and the rhythm…the way the sound comes together. At the start, it sounds a little messy, but at the end, it’s really good.”
Save The Music may have closed the day for NASDAQ, but they’re nowhere near the end of their quest to restore music education. If the last 20 years are any indication, VH1 will help keep the music going for the next two decades and beyond.
Watch the Market Bell Ceremony below: