WORDS John Pitcher
PHOTOGRAPHY Anthony Ross Tyler
It has long been known that music is the universal language. Notes for Notes, the national nonprofit that’s opening a flagship music studio at East Nashville’s Boys and Girls Club, believes music is also a powerful tool for social good.
Since its founding a decade ago at a teen center in Santa Barbara, California, Notes for Notes has empowered thousands of young people through music. The program introduces children and teens to the various mysteries of the music industry, from songwriting and instrument playing to sound mixing and recording. Arguably, though, the most important lessons learned in Notes for Notes studios are not about music.
“Of course, we want young people to be good musicians,” program co-founder and CEO Philip Gilley tells Nashville Arts Magazine. “But at the end of the day, it’s more important to us how they grow as people than how well they play an instrument.”
That sentiment has been the driving force behind the program from the beginning. Notes for Notes got its start in the mid-aughts, when Gilley was serving as a mentor in the Big Brothers and Sisters program in Santa Barbara. Gilley wanted to make a connection with his “little brother” and pass on something meaningful to him. At first, Gilley, an accomplished guitarist, thought about introducing the boy to his instrument. The child, however, wanted to learn the drums.
This seeming dilemma inspired Gilley to start a nonprofit, one that would provide access to multiple instruments and recording equipment. Along with his friend Natalie Noone, daughter of music icon and Herman’s Hermits frontman, Peter Noone, Gilley approached a Santa Barbara teen center about a collaboration. Gilley and Noone would provide some of their own used music gear if the center would provide a space for a studio. The center agreed, and Gilley and Noone opened what was then called MusicBox Studio in March 2007.
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