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Film Inspires Commitment to the Future of Music Education

After composing the music for Mr. Holland’s Opus, Michael Kamen was inspired to start a foundation that donates instruments to music programs.

Mr. Kamen (1948-2003) believed that kids thrive when given the chance to learn and play music. In 1996 he converted this belief into action by starting the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation (MHOF). Today the foundation donates instruments, both new and refurbished, to music programs across the country that lack the resources to keep up with equipment needs.

There are two core programs to the MHOF: the Melody Program, which is available to K-12 public, private, or charter schools with existing music programs, and the Special Projects Program, helping before and after school music programs that primarily serve youth from low-income families. After being selected to receive a grant, the MHOF distributes new and excellently refurbished instruments that become property of that program.

Each year about 10,000 young people nationwide benefit from the Melody and Special Projects Programs. Students who can't afford instrument rentals or on waiting lists are given an opportunity to play quality instruments, improving their educational experience and inspiring them to accomplish more. MHOF grants elevate music programs and elicit additional support and demand for music education for all students.

Patricia Root, Band Director of Walkerville Elementary School in Michigan fondly remembers receiving instruments courtesy of the MHOF:

“The principal came running to find me, saying a huge FedEx truck was here with something from MHOF...When we saw that the first delivery was from the Yamaha company, we couldn't get those boxes in the school fast enough. One boy said ‘This is just like Christmas, only better.’ And it didn't matter who was going to get the privilege of playing the instruments - our kids just felt proud and thrilled that someone cared enough about them to provide these instruments for their band.”

Though no longer available, The Michael Kamen Solo Award was a third program of the MHOF. The award was given to outstanding student musicians in grades 8-12 who could not afford an appropriate instrument. Recipients include From the Top alum and cellist Khari Joyner.

Dustin Barrera, a Solo Award Recipient from downtown Los Angeles, says “There are no words that express my gratitude and appreciation for awarding me with a brand new professional alto saxophone…Every time I play my new saxophone, the importance of each note that I play, will represent the importance that you guys have played in my life. Thank you for helping disadvantaged kids like me continue their path to success.”