Making Connections and Building Communities through Music

Published in Nashville Arts Magazine: August 2017

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.


Going for “Golden”

It was an epic day at the Empire State Building when the King of Bachata Romeo Santos announced his support of Notes for Notes™.  The Bronx native, whose new album “Golden” dropped on the world the following day, celebrated his generous support of our Brooklyn (and forthcoming Bronx) Studio at a “flipping of the switch” ceremony at the Empire State Building. Romeo’s support of our New York programming marks the most generous gift we’ve received since opening the Brooklyn Studio as well as the first Latin artist to partner with us.

Today at the Empire State Building we showcased a wonderful program that continues to emphasize something that is near and dear to my heart, the gift of music. Notes for Notes ~Romeo Santos via Facebook

In the lobby of one of the country’s most iconic buildings defining the NYC skyline we stood for dozens of camera’s capturing the moment. A group of some of our most talented Brooklyn members were in attendance to celebrate the partnership. Standing next to one of the most successful Latin musicians on the scene our members got a glimpse of where a fellow New York musician can go.  That night ESB’s lights synced to his newest single, Carmin, making Romeo the first Latin musician to receive the honor.

Empire State- Romoeo

It’s nearly impossible to describe the feeling of how far Notes for Notes has come to receive such an honor. Ten years ago we could have never imagined that the opening of one studio in Santa Barbara would lead to 17 studios nationwide and the support of one of Latin’s biggest stars.  As Notes for Notes is a testament to dreams coming true so was this event for our members who got a taste of what is to come if they continue to follow the music.


Thank you to Romeo, Roc Nation, the Empire State Building team and all those who in attendance to share is such a monumental day. Thank you for making our 10th anniversary a “Golden” one!

N4N Team Member Spotlight: Ryan Venable

Born in Detroit, and raised in Nashville, Ryan Venable performs and produces his own original music. After studying Communications, Photography, and Video and Audio Production at High Point University, he moved out to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music and film. Ryan has been performing and also taking on freelance videography projects since he has moved to the west coast. Ryan’s true passion lies in his music, making his own beats and writing songs for acoustic guitar or piano. He is proud to be able to positively influence the youth as a part of the Notes for Notes team.

1. You’re from Detroit, and raised in Nashville…which city influenced you the most? How so?

I would have to say Nashville has influenced me the most, at least musically. I picked up the guitar shortly after moving to Nashville and country music was definitely a big inspiration to me lyrically.

2. Life then brought you out to LA as you pursued a career in film and music…what did you envision when you made the choice to move here? How did that play out?

I’ve always wanted to come to LA for as long as I could remember to pursue music and film. After studying both in college, I realized I was actually able to move out there on my own and basically make my own path. It wasn’t easy at first of course. I’ve definitely gotten lost a few times on the journey, but considering where I am now, I wouldn’t change a thing.

3. Are you currently working on any film projects? What are they about? Or what was your most recent project?

I’m currently waiting on getting the shooting schedule for a short cooking show series with a professional chef and caterer. One of my latest big projects was a short interview series with the Inner City Law Center of downtown LA.

4. When did you decide that music would be a career for you?

I’ve sort of always known music would be my career. As a kid, I would hear nothing but how tough it is to be a successful musician so I would constantly think of how I can make a career out of it. Through my experience the only real answer is practice and persistence.

5. Outside of music, what motivates you?

People motivate me! It always amazes me what people are capable of. I love seeing people pursue their dream no matter what it is or where they may be at in life.

6. Do you have a link to share where we can hear your music?

My latest 3 albums.

7. Share a lyric that inspires you.

“Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand.”

~ Stevie Wonder

8. What are you most excited about working with the Notes for Notes team?

I’m so excited to produce a brand new song with some of the talented youth. Every single music session has so much potential to create something amazing.

9. How can the team support you?

Honestly everyone’s attitude and openness is all I could ask for! I also play live shows occasionally, and the team has already come out to support so thanks!

10. Lastly, what’s your spirit animal?

Haha oooo that’s a hard one… I’d have to say a leopard.

Get in touch with Ryan to set up a tour or learn how you can get involved!

Musical Chair with the Grand Ole Opry

Notes For Notes™ (N4N™) is thrilled to announce Musical Chairs – A “fan”tastically fun way to partner with venues and touring musicians! Through this project, N4N will partner with hosting sites and musicians to raise money for the organization by bringing ordinary chairs to life through music.

At the end of the year, the chair will go up for auction, and all proceeds will benefit N4N!

We’re honored to launch this campaign with The Grand Ole Opry with a rocking chair from a Nashville vintage store and participating artists Kane Brown, Seth Ennis, Luke Combs, and Keith Urban.

We kicked off the campaign with rising star Kane Brown in the Nashville North N4N Studio. There he engaged with youth through Q&A and provided insight in to his world that’s quickly changing! He signed the back before we moved the chair backstage at the Opry. There it will stay throughout 2017 for Opry guest musicians to sit, sing, and sign!
Our first #MusicalChair guest backstage was Seth Ennis and we’re so grateful to him and his team for participating!

The Opry engaged Seth’s fans through their “Tweet Your Seat” campaign on Twitter. The winning audience members were brought back stage for an intimate in-person performance with Seth and a couple of his band members and The Opry streamed it live to thousands of viewers on Periscope!

A great big thanks to the Opry for capturing this up close and personal fan experience!

The N4N Musical Chair will live backstage at the Opry the rest of 2017 to collect as many songs, signatures, and experiences as possible before being auctioned off at the end of the year. Be sure to follow the campaign with #MusicalChair and @opry and @notesfornotes.

The Big Payback: May 3, 2017

Notes for Notes™ is participating in Middle Tennessee’s day of giving, The Big Payback, for the 4th year on Wednesday, May 3rd!

Funds raised during this day will help support Nashville’s 3rd Studio, which will be located in East Nashville’s Cleveland Park neighborhood.

Our pup friend, Beast, is hopping around East Nashville to help spread the word and get your support! Give any amount over $10, anytime between 12am and 11:59pm (Central Standard Time), from any city in any state, and you’ll help us top the leaderboard!!

Beast in EastAbout The Big Payback

The Big Payback is a community-wide, 24-hour online giving challenge hosted by The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. This charitable event will help area nonprofits raise much-needed dollars and bring awareness to pressing needs in our community.

In the past three years, The Big Payback has helped raise more than $6.5 million dollars for nearly 800 local nonprofits – including schools and religious institutions.

On Wednesday, May 3rd, let’s show everyone just how generous Middle Tennessee residents are when we support each other.

This year, donors will have the ability to pre-schedule gifts for The Big Payback. If you will not be able to make a donation on May 3, 2017 but still want to support Notes for Notes, you can go to and set up your gift starting on Wednesday, April 26. Your gift will be processed when the giving day officially opens at midnight on May 3, 2017. Please note, pre-scheduled donations will not be eligible for incentives, bonuses and additional prizes.

New Austin Studio Build!!!

Written by Jarrad James
dorismiller_auditorium22We recently built out our 16th new studio inside the Doris Miller Auditorium in collaboration with the Austin Parks and Rec Department!



This was a particularly exciting build for me because we recently received a gear donation sponsorship from Ryobi power tools! Ryobi is awesome and helped us put together a very robust build kit that can now hit the ground with me for every new studio build!

After getting two flight cases full of power tools  under 50 pounds each, I was off to Austin for my first ever visit to TEXAS! As soon as I hit the ground, I hopped in the rental truck and participated in a Build Team time honored tradition: IKEA Swedish meatballs!

After getting furniture for the new Studio, it was time to actually set eyes on the physical space for the first time!

First step is to unbox and inventory all of the fun new gear.

While I waited for Phil and Ray to arrive on day two, I got right to work plotting out and hanging acoustic treatment panels, as well as guitar hooks.

Now with Phil and Ray on the ground in Austin, and the Build Team in full force, we put those Ryobi tools to proper use with one of our crazy “custom” projects: diffuser panels!

Speaking of custom, the builders absolutely SLAYED this stage made of 120 year old reclaimed local Austin barnwood:


“The sustain, listen to it.”

So after a few days of hustle, a LOT of breakfast tacos and proper Texas BBQ, things started to come together!

This project was super fun, and maybe, our easiest most impressive build yet! We always say that each new studio build becomes our “Flagship” studio, resetting the bar for what our spaces can be. I am so happy to take on my new role as Director of Studio Architecture and continue to push our team to design, build and equip the rockin-est free youth recording studio environments in the country!

We also say that a studio is not truly a Notes for Notes studio until there are youth there, making music, bringing it to life with their creativity, confidence, community, and relationships along with the help of an awesome Program Director. Until then, it is simply a room full of gear. Really, really nice gear.

The build team has another notch in its belt. Number 16. Simply add youth and watch the magic happen.

Can’t wait to see the heat that the youth of the Live Music Capital of the World bring…

N4N in The City of Rock ‘N’ Roll

If you are in Cleveland you can visit the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame AND the Notes for Notes™ Studio and the Boys & Girls Club of Cleveland. Notes for Notes was honored to open the Cleveland studio thanks to the support of the Hot Topic Foundation as well as locally based Audio Technica. At the time of the opening back in May of 2016, this marked our 12th studio and the first of the year. Generously built by Turner Foundation and led by Mitch Zaharewicz the studio was built perfectly to the N4N designs making this one of our nicest and largest studios to date.

You see, rock and roll isn’t a career or hobby – it’s a life force. It’s something very essential~The Edge

We’ve been at since May rocking and rolling with studio sessions, jam sessions, lessons, podcasts and more. As you’ve heard a thousand times before, our studios would be nothing without our team. Ryan Easter, a Cleveland native and grandson of a Cleveland Indian first basemen, is the difference maker of this studio. A pro behind the board and producer extraordinaire, Ryan is an incredible asset to the N4N team but especially to the youth that come to the studio every day for a dose of music… and life.

Take the studio for a spin with the Google Tour above!

The Cleveland studio is the genesis of an introduction from Dusty Peugeot who in addition to sitting on the Club’s board is the brother of our very own team member Kristin Myers. A few conversations later and we were finding ourselves right at home working with the wonderful BGC organization run by CEO Ron Soeder. This is also one of the few clubs we’ve been fortunate enough to work with that has such a robust dedicated arts program, led by the incomparable Matt Bott! When we shared with our partners at Hot Topic (Joe Emory of course!) that we wanted to open in Cleveland they were extremely supportive providing the resources to open this studio, they even chipped in the man power providing employees from the local stores to volunteer to build some exciting Ikea furniture.


Hot Topic team volunteering on the studio build

This studio also marks the first and only location to feature an Audio Technica Mix Room! Thanks to one of our longest supporting sponsors AT who has sponsored every one of our studios with the BEST mics and headphones, this studio represents a flagship arsenal of the AT line from the wireless guitar and mic setups to top of line broadcast mics. This studio is set UP! It also features custom GIK acoustic panels  with printed AT products showcased. In the words of The Dude “It really ties the room together”. Extra special thanks to our microphone angel Roxanne Ricks!

This studio is set UP! Thanks to Audio Technica


Since the opening in May it has been a steady (at times overwhelming) flow of youth coming through the studio. Check out this great article on the opening from Be sure to follow all the incredible updates like this ONE from the N4N Cleveland Studio Page that features blogs, music, schedules and the ability to chat with Ryan directly about getting in the studio. So next time you are in Cleveland and after (or before) you’ve checked out the miles of historic guitars at the Rock Hall please stop in and say hi at the studio and hear the next generation making hits!



There were a lot of times in our lives where people doubted us, told us we’re not good at anything, and my sisters, they gave up. But I didn’t. And they told me that even though they gave up that I should keep going to keep our legacy going.
~ Dayshanna, 15